Climate & Energy

I recently photographed an extremely, ridiculously expensive newly built private property. While being shown around the builder and developer were keen to point out the state of the art features they had integrated into the building. I have to admit it was quite amazing. I asked about the energy efficiency of the place and was proudly told that the property needed commercial level power, in other words, it guzzled electricity. "So did you put in solar power or anything like that so that the building can generate it's own electricity?".

Resounding silence.

"It has it's own backup generator." Came the eventual reply.

In this day and age, in a country and a state that will actually give you money to help you install renewable energy technology, and with materials at your disposal to make a building as energy efficient as possible, that someone would build such a monster of a property without any of these features beggers belief. They'd rather budget for a basketball court in the basement. In contrast, earlier this year I photographed a guy who (unrelated to the article I was illustrating) had built his own house using energy efficient principles and he had nothing but good things to say about the amount and quality of power he got from his geothermal system.

But then, I am not actually surprised at the indifference of most people. Energy companies build huge solar arrays out in the desert, wind farms miles offshore and try and generate huge amounts of power that is then transferred miles and miles through a huge and inefficient grid. They then turn around and say, look, this technology is just not good enough. And people nod their head and say yes, you're right, we don't have the space for huge huge solar arrays and aren't those windmills ugly. This is the wrong way to think about energy generation and is a left over from the attitudes that built the huge fossil fuel burning facilities that generate the majority of our power today. What we need is localised, smaller facilities.

When I talk to people about how we can all live pretty much off the grid, generating much of our own power on site supplemented by small, local power stations powered by wind, solar and geothermal with facilities to generate power using fossil fuels as a a last resort and backup which would provide a consistent stable source of clean energy I am met with the most part by complete indifference. People who complain about their energy bills are reluctant to invest a lump sum to install solar or geothermal power. Some don't even properly insulate their houses properly.

Why the rant? Well, I get angry easily these days. On Sunday I was reading the paper and on the front page of the NY Times I see three pictures; one from Pakistan showing the devastating floods that have affected around 20 million people. I'll put that in bold shall I - 20 MILLION). The second picture was of the Russian wildfires and the third from Chicago, where June storms battered the city.

The headline below was "In Weather Chaos, a Case for Global Warming."

This looked promising. However, the article that followed put forward a rather feeble case that said yes, the world is getting warmer, and yes this will mean more climate chaos, more extremes of heat, drought, storm, fire, flood and snow. Yes a warmer world does mean we will still get cold days in winter. But it also tiptoed around the fact that this is our fault, with much made of the 'probably, possibly' and the 'can't scientifically, positively say for sure'.

So. When my kids turn to me in twenty years time and ask why we didn't do anything about our lifestyle, why did people spend millions drilling for oil and cleaving the tops off mountains instead of restructuring our outdated energy system. When cities are regularly blacked out, it costs $1000 to fill your car with petrol and there are a billion refugees every year thanks to storms and fires, when Bangladesh is made practically uninhabitable, when Katrina is no longer referred to as a 'once in a lifetime' storm, when LA is evacuated because of the threat of fire and Greenland sheds iceburgs four times the size of Manhattan every year, I will have to turn to them and say, "Sorry kids, people just didn't give a shit."

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