Second part of a two-part post.
What would I miss most in a world with rationed energy supplies?
It is easy to forget how much we rely upon cheap fuel. I am not just talking about filling the gas tank or heating one’s home. Everything we buy must travel. Ideally, it does not travel 1/3 of the way around the globe, but it travels. I may get my milk from a local dairy, but since there are no cows in SW London, it stands to reason that someone did have to do some transporting. The books I read, the clothes I wear, the food I eat, the medicines we take, and the water we drink all need to travel. Not only that, but it takes energy to produce all of these things.
I fear a world in which I could not get what I think of as basic necessities because there is not enough oil to transport them. A world in which heat waves kill hundreds and cold snaps kill thousands because there is not enough energy to go around. A world in which I cannot feed my children fruits and vegetables unless I have a back yard and can grow them myself.
I would not miss driving. Honestly, I really dislike driving. I am happy to walk everywhere possible, but not everywhere is possible, so I suppose I would miss the ease with which I can now see people on the other side of the city or the other side of the country. Mostly, however, I would miss feeling like my children have a chance to grow up in a world where they have everything they need.
What can I do to help?
“This environmental obsession of yours is sure saving us money,” J told me last week. That is not really true. Yes, I buy much less than I used to. If I no longer like something but it is functional, I keep using it. We no longer buy paper towels since we switched to rags, we buy fewer tissues since I transitioned to handkerchiefs, and I will not buy new Tupperwares just because the old ones are discolored and grey (although I think I will be looking for a non-plastic option).
We buy less partly because the landfills are overflowing, partly because manufacturing goods spews crap out into our air and our water, and partly because of the energy required to produce new goods and then get them to our house. Theoretically, we ought to be saving a bundle. If only I weren’t pouring the savings into the things we still do buy – when we need new clothing because the kids keep eating or mine is in tatters, I try to buy ethical clothing. This is only so feasible. Why is it I can find loads of fair trade, organic shirts but no trousers? I feel like a hypocrite as Zachary wears his “Little Green Radical” shirt (pink, of course) with whatever jeans we can find that actually fit his little behind. And, please, if someone has found an ethical bra, let me know. This is off the topic, however, as the question is about energy, not pesticides or child labor, and one of the best ways to reduce energy usage is to buy used items locally.
I would buy used if used-clothing stores didn’t stress me out so much because I hate shopping and they require patience to sift through things. Seriously, I would rather buy nothing, which is what I usually do, than have to spend hours in a store trying to find a pair of jeans. I think I am going to have to start shopping used for environmental reasons, but I am going to need to bring my inhaler with me. Used is about the only way our shopping habits have become less expensive. On the whole, we are buying fewer things and paying more for them.
We pay more for a milkman and our produce is organic and locally grown but more expensive. We are using disposable diapers with Ben (a subject for another post), but we are using the pricey, environmentally friendly, not-made-with-a-tub-of oil kind that I have to walk a mile to buy. We are pretty much spending exactly what we used to, in purely financial terms. But, we are also spending much less energy, getting a few things we need rather than unnecessary things we want.
I struggle in a few areas. We still buy toys now and then, but I try to insist upon quality toys that will last through the children. And then there are the books. It is an addiction. When we move, I need to start using the library more (the one here is awful) because too much energy is going into bringing books to my door. Yet, I cannot imagine breaking the book-buying habit. Who would support all those authors?
We walk a lot. Part of that is personal preference, but part is an understanding that we do not need to drive everywhere. I suspect moving to LA will be very, very hard. Did I mention that I like to walk, not drive? All we can do is try to cluster all our services in one area and then try to live in that area. J will still need to travel for work, and there is not much we can do about that. But the rest of the family can limit our fuel intake.
“This house is so cold,” my husband complains. So, wear a sweater. ‘Nuf said.
There is no doubt in my mind that we will continue to use energy. It is almost impossible not to. But, now, when I think about cost, I do not just think in terms of money. How much does something cost means how much pollution did it create, how many children worked in a sweatshop to make it, how much packaging does it come with, and how much energy did it take to bring it to my door. Chances are, if it is a 99¢ tchotchke from Target that will end up in the landfill, it costs way too much.
Although we did buy Zachary a big pink ring. Story for another day.
I am not tagging anyone, because that would be absurd, given how many memes I have not responded to. However, please feel free to take this and run with it.