As a Mathamatician I See The Environmental Issue as a 'Multi-Variable" Problem.
Now I'm not sure how many of you have tried to solve a math problem by trial and error but even a 2 variable math problem can be tricky because what ever you do to one variable changes the other, so it is a juggling act. Of course in math there are techniques to handle this but lets say we make it 4 or 5 variables--now even the techniques become awkward. The environment has far more than 4 or 5 variables and there is not an easy solution to any of them.
Lets take saving energy; something as simple as lighting. You can reduce your bower bill by using CFLs (compact florescent lights), but Florescent lights contain mercury so disposing of them pollutes the environment. It is kind of like health, what is good for you today is found to cause cancer tomorrow. With the environment, however, there are social and political issues that add to the internal diametrically opposed issues. How can you be right all of the time? The fact is you can't, but you should always try to be as right as you can be. LEDs are considerably more expensive than CFLs but so far they have no harmful side effects for the environment. They do have harmful effects on the wallet however. A very high quality LED bulb such as the GeoBulb can cost up to $100.00 a bulb and while they last 5 to 10 times longer than CFLs and use a fraction of the energy that CFLs do, the initial bulb expense is a bit beyond what the average consumer can confront.
For the environment they are the best choice but over a 10 year period the CFLs are cheaper. Incandescent bulbs however cost way more over a 10 year period--they aren't even in the running. Now this is all dependent on if the CFLs last as long as they should. Some of the cheaper ones don't, you need to be sure to get a good brand. CFLs also won't last if they are being turned on and off frequently so they would be a bad choice for a closet or a room where the light is turned on and off continuously. LED's don't have that problem but how do you know that they will last 30,000 hours or whatever they are guaranteed for? You don't actually, not unless you buy one and keep track of how long it lasts. So economics is another factor, do you invest $100.00 in a light bulb to see if it works. Well I guess that would depend just how strong ones desire to help the environment was. So the point is that even something as simple as choosing a light bulb can be multi-variable and that is a very small issue compared to the whole Global Warming issue
Lets take a closer look.
In an article published on Dec.1st 2003 in the New York Times the following was said: "The Energy Department estimates that if every American homeowner simply replaced the incandescent lighting in his or her five most frequently used fixtures with compact fluorescents, the nation would save 800 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity consumption -- the equivalent of shutting down 21 power plants. The cost of fluorescent bulbs is typically 8 to 10 times that of incandescents, but that initial outlay would be offset over time by their much longer life and by lower electricity bills. (As an added benefit, the Energy Department estimates, utilities would emit one trillion fewer pounds of the types of gases that contribute to global warming.)"
Now there is no mention of mercury, but you can see that using energy efficient bulbs could make a big difference. If you are an elite "conserver" and can afford $100.00 a bulb you could increase those figures. You could go to the bank and borrow $1000.00 to buy 10 light bulbs.
Now as impressive as these figures are, light bulbs alone will not halt Global Warming, but they would help. No one thing will stop global warming and some of the things that will help create other problems, like the mercury in the florescent bulbs. It is a balancing act and it would be great if everyone did as much as they could to make it happen, but they don't. I understand why they don't- people are often caught up in their own problems and feel if they have trouble solving those how can they solve big problems that affect the whole planet. It is hard to take a step back and see that some of the solutions like the light bulbs actually save you money in the long run which solves a personal problem, not a world wide problem. But if you can help with a planet-wide problem at the same time-Why Not?
Now there is also outdoor lighting powered by the Sun. These use LED's in combination with small solar panels. Like anything else these things come in all sizes and qualities but they all have one thing in common. They use no electricity from your power company-they charge by day and shine by night. If you have an outdoor area that needs to be lighted for any reason this would be the only way to go. I say this because they require no wiring so installation is not expensive or difficult- some of them you just go out to your garden and and stick it in the ground. So even if these were expensive which they aren't they would be cheaper than the wired in electric posts just because on the wireing involved.
They make solar powered bar lights that can line your sidewalk or garden keeping you on the path or out of the garden. There are Solar Powered address lights that light up your address so your guests can find you at night. There are old fashioned solar lampposts that require no wiring. There are even solar powered holiday lights for making Santas, angels, snow men, manger scenes, you name it, all powered by solar panels. I like to go out and see the decorations- some people make impressive displays- but I'd hate to have their electric bill. This also does not help bring Peace on Earth from the Global Warming stand point. They could have used solar powered lights and helped save the planet.
Anyway the above are things you could do and sometimes just knowing that takes some of the complexity out of it.
You can get more information at:
- My part in saving the planet
A website providing data and products that are good for the planet.