The recent proposal to build more power lines in Alberta is an example of the wrong-headed consumptive thinking that is destroying our planet. The only difference is that this time we are talking about something we can’t see — electrical power.
Or can we see it?
Look around your house. How many appliances do you have?
Where once you relied on a basic gas stove and oven for cooking, has that been replaced by a microwave, toaster oven, convection oven, bread maker, electric waffle maker, panetta sandwich grill, electric wok, electric frying pan, slow cooker, etc.
For home entertainment we once had books, a piano or guitar, a radio and a TV and maybe a stereo — now it’s a Game Boy, Nintendo, Xbox, Wii, ipod, cellphone, computer — and they all require electricity for charging or operation.
The point is that every one of these items consumes electricity that relies, in most cases, on coal-fired generators.
The items themselves have used a lot of energy to produce them. They all require electrical energy to run them. Many were produced in China, notorious for not recognizing environmental emissions standards.
Ah, but you say — they are so convenient!
I agree. But our desire for convenience now means that the government of Alberta is also taking power into its own hands, sweeping powers, to abrogate land owners’ rights on the pretext of the province needing more electrical power.
Rather than condemning the government alone, I say it is we the people who are power mad and hungry for power.
Likewise, it appears necessary to build bigger better power lines, but by doing that we only encourage wanton waste of energy resources.
Instead, I propose that we reduce, reuse and bicycle.
Yes — there is an obesity problem and an electrical energy problem in Alberta.
So let’s outfit every home with a bicycle that is hooked up to the power grid. Give people a financial incentive to pedal that bike every day for half an hour or more.
You will both see a drop in the cost of health care through the improvement in fitness of the general population, and we will generate our own power for the grid! At the same time, individuals will be reducing their power bills. (http://www.los-gatos.ca.us/davidbu/pedgen.html)
More important, we will be making electrical energy visible, physical.
To my mind, this is the element missing in much of our modern life.
We are disconnected from the process so we don’t value what we get — we just want more of it — but this is killing us and our planet. Just imagine you wanted to have some toast, so you get on your bike and pedal for half an hour. This theoretically would generate enough electricity to the grid for you to toast your bread with zero electrical consumption.
How about charging your cellphone for an hour? Get on that bike and go! Now you might think twice about how many text messages you have to send or how many empty calls to pass the time.
What about your Wii?
You want to work out with the Wii or play a game? Get on the bike and power up.
After you pedal for a few kilometres, you maybe won’t need the Wii. You might rather rest and read a book.
And you want to surf the Internet? Well, get pedalling.
And what about municipalities? Do we really need to light streets all the time at night?
Reduce! Turn out the lights and save the planet (excepting hospitals).
In terms of employment, there are people who have difficulty acquiring skills for work — but pedalling is something that almost everyone, even seniors, can do on stationary bikes (or using their arms on a table cycle).
Bikes can be geared down to suit minimal physical strength requirements — just think — with a bank of bikes, a seniors home could become a power generator!
Why let the government take power from the people in terms of land rights for power lines and generation? You and I can abandon our wasteful habits, get fit and generate electrical power in a life-enhancing way.
Reduce, re-use and bicycle. Now that’s “empowerment.”
Michelle Stirling-Anosh is a Ponoka freelance columnist.