Wednesday, April 23, 2014

What should we do?

I was reading Chris' post this morning over at The Chainring Report in which he talks about Earth Day and how he had planned to honor it, but changed his plans due to the weather.  he also mentions how his planting of food crops felt right.  It certainly got me thinking about Earth Day and our existence on this planet.

I know we are currently living in a way that is unsustainable long term.  Our decisions and lifestyles are such that we are spending our children's futures and this cannot continue. there was even a report published recently that says the main source of water for the Las Vegas valley, Lake Mead, will only last 22 more years. The continued drought and changing weather patterns are causing the main source of water for this city of more than 2 million people to dry up.

One of our main problems here in the USA is that we are a very car-centric culture and we live with the idea that we need cars to survive.  Long term this is going to be our demise.  We are already past what has been termed Peak Oil which means we are now experiencing declining petroleum availability.  This will increase prices and decrease our standard of living. Not only that but the exploration for and retrieval of petroleum is causing more and more environmental devastation. We've gotten most of the easy to get oil, now it becomes more and more difficult to get the remaining oil, like from tar sands, and the environmental impact is ever increasing.

Do I have a sure-fire quick solution to the issues?  Nope, unfortunately not.  Do I enjoy many of the benefits of relatively cheap petroleum in terms of being able to move about freely, enjoy A/C in the summer, Heat in the winter and water in the desert? Of course, but I also recognize that change is coming and we need to look hard at how we are using these precious, dwindling resources.

I have said before that if we had a better cycling infrastructure here in the valley, I would start cycling to work. Sure we have areas where they have embraced cycling by building interconnected bike paths and bike lanes, but unfortunately where I live in the valley there is no good route to get to where these exist. I have been driving one or more of my grand kids to or from school as well lately. I also sweat a LOT when I ride in warmer weather and have concerns about no shower facilities at work when I arrive. I need to look neat, clean and professional while in my cubicle and in front of employees. I realize there are solutions to these issues, but right now those are not acceptable alternatives.

One solution to the bike commute dilemma is to move closer to my work and take advantage of those areas that have cycling infrastructure. My issue there is that affordable houses in desirable areas with this infrastructure are hard to find. I am ever looking a the available housing options and may, one day, fond an acceptable alternative.

The other thing I look at is how we are generating power for our various electric and electronic devices, One resource we have in abundance here in the desert is sunlight and solar energy is a very viable player in power generation. There are a few smaller solar power plants which have recently come on line, but this only represents a small percentage of the total power picture. These are expensive to build and maintain and therefore are still not cost-effective when compared to fossil fuel generation options. One technology I love is called a Solar Updraft Tower or a Solar Chimney.  I've actually written a blog post here about it.

Its a passive system that harnesses the convective forces inside a greenhouse and chimney to produce electricity using wind turbines.  The one big drawback is the cost of construction, but once built the cost to maintain and operate the plant is minimal.

While I don't have many answers, I do believe change is needed and we have to be the instruments of that change or our children and our children's children will be paying the price for our current lifestyle. So on reflection we need to extend many of the ideals of Earth Day beyond just one day and make them a year round focus.

Eat Better.

Get on your bike and ride!

Save the earth!