How to Reduce the Impact of Poverty: Go Green!
Slave to the Dogs left a cogent comment on my last post, it raised a number of issues that I feel need to be addressed rather more broadly than the comment-thread format allows:
For myself, I agree completely. I know I can do more to contribute and try to do so.I agree that technology will help. But irrespective of any advances in technology, if you don't like living in a polluted environment, the best way to reduce that pollution is to stop making it.
For the general population, I disagree. I think technology is what ultimately will solve the problem.
If you are struggling to make ends meet, pollution and energy use is going to be pretty low on your priority list. You buy cheaper lightbulbs because you live paycheck to paycheck [...] Reducing your individual energy output is a benefit we priveleged have.(Forgive my bunging together two quotes from different paragraphs, but they speak to the same issue).
There's a misperception that environmentally sensible behaviour is somehow solely within the reach of the rich. In fact, if you're struggling to make ends meet, you're exactly the person who should be thinking about the environment. Environmentally conscious and responsible behaviour saves the person practicing it money.
Using your the example: I can choose to buy an incandescent 60 Watt bulb for my home. It'll last anywhere up to about 2,000 hours. For those 2000 hours, it'll use 120 KW and cost roughly $14.40 assuming 12¢ per KW/h.
Power: $14.70 or so.
In my home, I'm slowly converting to compact fluorescent bulbs. I don't like the "60-Watt equivalent 13-Watters, they're too dim for me. So I use a 23-watt "100W equivalent". They cost about $5.00 apiece when I bought them (and they're cheaper now). Wal-Mart had 23-Watters on at $3 last year.
What? Why would any sensible person go for that? Ah, well you see, if I'm buying an incandescent bulb, I had to replace it four times over that compact fluorescent's 8,000-hour lifespan.
I had to spend $57.60. If I'm struggling to make ends meet, I think I could scrape up the initial $5 (or $3) to make an investment that'd save me $25, no?
You make your '91 high emissions car last as long as it possibly can.In California, rich and poor alike must pass the smog tests, yet the poor still drive.
You can put the gas guzzler taxes et. al on new cars that get sold. How many poor folks can atually afford to buy a new car?All used cars begin as new cars. If the environmental costs of new cars, built to a higher standard for consumption and economy are recouped at the plant, or through the initial buyer, sooner or later that cleaner car will be a used, but still cleaner-running, car. And the people who buy them used will still save money on gas!
But wait, as Mr. Popeil says, there's more:
To return to our lightbulbs. Compact fluorescents are a little more energy-intensive to manufacture than plain old incandescents--but last four times as long and consume less power. So factories need make only about a third as many. Smaller, cleaner cars (and I'm talking something like a Ford Focus, not the Tata Nano, here) generate less pollution and burn less fuel. But in manufacturing, they take less energy to build. And both these options require less mining--one of the filthiest industries on the planet. They also require less power to make, less oil extraction and refining, and take a smaller toll on road infrastructure.
Those Chinese factories would belch less pollution if we stopped buying crap, too, making a serious difference to the people of China, and saving North Americans in the lower tax brackets cash as well. Mme Metro likes the "Regal" catalogue's hot dog toaster as a prime example of crap you don't need, but there's a hell of other examples. Recycling what we have, and making a genuine effort to slow consumption and economic "growth" for its own sake will save money, environmental waste, and lives.
Recycle? They don't do it in your hood.So you take the time and make the effort to do it yourself. There are certainly costs associated with individually responsible choices, but most of them aren't actually monetary. Take the cans to the recycling center (and whether or not your city has centralized collection, there's someone recycling plastic, paper, and steel somewhere nearby) while you're driving your cleaner car to Wal-Mart for some compact fluorescent bulbs. It'll help offset the cost of the trip.
In fact, I believe waste and poverty in the industrialized world have a great deal to do with one another. But it's a long story. Perhaps I'll post it.
And here's a big bonus: A healthier environment will save us millions in health costs. Excess power capacity should mean that the price of energy drops a bit, too.
In other words--we all save money! The poor, who of necessity will save a greater proportion of their income, should be 100% greenfreaks.
And the changes don't have to be draconian--incremental change will do and even the poorest of us can start right now: Drop your hot water thermostat a degree or two, lower your home heating by two degrees, try to take the bus twice a week for the commute, or walk, or carpool. Take 5-minute showers instead of 7-minute ones ... my point is, if one person does it, the effort is futile. If a population of thirty million does it, you'll see some changes.