I try to keep the tone mostly warm and friendly here, but what drives me to write is serious. We are facing — no , creating a planetary emergency. Let me state a few facts and then tie them all together.
Earth has an energy imbalance because of added greenhouse gas es in the atmosphere. Just like adding a blanket on a cold night, the gas es trap heat so less of the sun’s energy is able to radiate back into space. This imbalance is real and growing, but how many of us can actually visualize the energy involved?
Here is a visual you’ll never forget. Let’s use a unit of measurement that most of us can relate to — a really big one. Imagine the energy released by a World War II-style nuclear explosion: the blinding flash, the mushroom cloud, entire cities flattened. Because almost all of us are familiar with those horrific and devastating historic releases of energy, one atomic explosion will be our imaginary unit of measurement.
How many of these explosions do you think it would take to equal the amount of extra energy being added to the atmosphere every day? A few dozen perhaps? A couple of hundred? Not even close.
Fact one: We are responsible for adding the energy equivalent of 400,000 atomic bombs per day to our precious, life-sustaining planet. That is more than four massive nuclear events per second around the clock, 365 days per year. Think about it. Are you feeling uncomfortable yet?
Fact two: If and when we finally come to grips with this and stop adding greenhouse gas es to the atmosphere, climate change will not begin to reverse itself. The process is under way and will be for at least the next thousand years. The longer we avoid taking meaningful action, the more severe and long-lasting the problem becomes. It is a myth that climate change is reversible, but we can do things to avoid making it worse. I believe it is a moral imperative.
Fact three: Solar power systems have become so affordable that all new homes and other buildings should efficiently produce all the energy they need. Anything else should be illegal.
Fact four: Some visionary and responsible builders across the country are already doing it. If small builders can create affordable net-zero energy homes and make a profit, there is no reason for our building codes to lag behind this trend or for anyone to buy a new home that will have an electric bill larger than the cost of a mocha latte and a croissant. Smart builders are responding to this paradigm shift. Those that don’t will go the way of the dinosaurs.
Fact five: Most existing homes and buildings can be improved to nearly the same standard.
The sum of these facts is that we can effectively address a major problem by making our buildings more efficient and by powering them with renewable energy. We know what to do. Do not let the enormity of the problem overwhelm you. Let it motivate you. Get excited about the contribution you can make and then do your best.
I recently read a quote attributed to an anonymous judge. His stern words of advice were directed at the teens he deals with but they might also apply to those among us who complain about the situation and just want it to go away:
“The world does not owe you a living, you owe the world something. You owe it your time, energy and talent so that no one will be at war, in sickness and lonely again. In other words, grow up, stop being a crybaby, get out of your dream world and develop a backbone, not a wishbone. Start behaving like a responsible person. You are important and you are needed. It’s too late to sit around and wait for somebody to do something someday. Someday is now and that somebody is you!”
We can do this. After all, it’s just green living.
Steve Rypka is a green living consultant and president of GreenDream Enterprises . For more information , or to reach Rypka, visit www.greendream.biz.