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More On Getting Off the Grid

Posted on Friday, September 29, 2006 at 11:30AM by Registered CommenterMarshall Massey in , | Comments5 Comments

ew cameo.jpg Here’s something worth taking a look at!

On her blog “A Musing Environment”, Karen Street generally focuses on scientific developments in the environmental field. She doesn’t go much into matters of faith.

Last Friday, though, Karen reported that two liberal unprogrammed Friends monthly meetings were considering the idea of reducing their greenhouse gas emissions 10% in the coming year. “What will it take?” she asked.

This question has so far drawn eleven thoughtful responses from readers and one follow-up comment from Karen herself.

Karen puts the focus on what individuals can do in their own lives. She speaks of “a community effort”, but appears to mean by this, “people talking to one another while working on their own.” This of course is different from what I proposed to Baltimore YM — that we pool our time and resources in some big shared projects, including a shared effort to get all of us off the fossil-fuel grid together, in much the same way that we pooled our time and resources, through AFSC, to meet the needs of World War victims, or that folks pool their time and resources through Habitat for Humanity to build houses for the poor.

Nonetheless, the effort these two meetings are talking about is a noteworthy start.

You can look in on the discussion, and add a comment if the Spirit moves, here.

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Reader Comments (5)

As a person whose business is Solar Energy consulting and installation, I applaud the work of these 2 meetings. I have to assume that they did a thorough job of conservation and efficiency first.

But even if the whole world wanted to get into the same game, there are some sobering figures you should know.

In a previous work situation I was a geographer for both state and regional planning agencies. In Massachusetts, where I live, it was generally known that 15% of the state is 'built environment', that is to say, roads, house, bridges, dams, etc. If you take the figure of 1% of that 15% as reasonable to support a photovoltaic installation (solar electric), the area of the 1% of 15% of the state would be roughly 2000 MW (megawatts). New nuclear power plants, if ever built, are planned to be 1000 megawatts. Of course, the power is different as far as the utility grid is concerned, Nukes make baseload power, the level that can be assumed to be used 24 hours a day. Solar, needless to say, is limited by daylight and seasonal variations.

In 2005, the total gloval production of PV was 1000 MW. Our power pool expects that we will need 4000 more MW in 5 years.

I think you can see the problem here. It is not wildly different for any of the renewable/alternative energy sources.

This gives our simplicity testimony real teeth and will severely challenge us on the rest.

Peace to all...amd thanks for being there, Friends

Sep 29, 2006 at 07:13PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Campbell
Very good feedback, Don! (And welcome, too!)

Frankly, from the comments on Karen's site (which I'd encourage you to read), I'm doubtful that "they did a thorough job of conservation and efficiency first". I'm more inclined to think that doing that thorough job of conservation and efficiency is precisely how they intend to achieve their 10% reduction.

I could be wrong -- but *you* look at the comments on Karen's site and tell me what you think!

Out where I now live -- the Great Plains -- there is lots and lots of wind and lots and lots of space to put wind generators. Where I used to live -- the Interior West -- there is lots and lots of sunshine and relatively flat, arid land. So the potential for renewable power hereabouts looks a whole lot better than perhaps it does to you in Massachusetts.

This is not meant to downgrade the preciousness of simplicity.
Oct 2, 2006 at 09:59PM | Registered CommenterMarshall Massey
Marshall - I share your concern (is it a concern? your awareness, perhaps) about the tendency to focus on individual changes rather than community-focused ones.

I know that here in Minnesota there is a group working on a "Quaker Community Forest" - I went to the first few meetings a few years ago and haven't been since, but I find that sort of work more compelling and interesting. They are focused on owning/protecting/managing land together, not just as individuals.

I also have friends here who have a lot more money than most of those in our community (at least in our age group) who are very conscientious about spending their money wisely and in an eco-friendly way - a hybrid car, an efficient washing machine, eco-friendly travel when possible. These are options for them because the cost difference isn't a concern (or much of one) and I applaud them for using their money well.

However, I have fantasized that if I were in such a position (and, of course, in comparison to some I am, having my own home and a savings account, however small) I might underwrite those decisions for others as well - make an offer to those in meeting, or elsewhere in my community, to pay the difference between a traditional and hybrid car, or efficient appliances or furnaces, or insulation for the house, etc. Having recently spent about $700 on a washing machine when I could have gotten a significantly less effecient model for about $200, I am aware of how tought a decision that is to make.

What IF quaker meetings had a system in place to help their members (and maybe members of the larger community?) make such decisions more easily?

And then I, of course, fantasize about much different, more community focused changes. What if most quakers lived in quaker cohousing? What if one of those efficient machines served 5 families instead of one? What if they shared cars? (there are enough quakers within a mile of me to make a car co-op feasible, but no one, including me, has put in the work to organize it, and I am the only one I know of who doesn't have a car now. I would LOVE to buy 1/10th of a car rather than a whole one - I am thinking I need one now, but only about once a week- but I need ten other people for that and have so far been too cynical to explore whether they're out there.

Thanks for bringing it up.

Oct 23, 2006 at 01:26PM | Unregistered CommenterPam
Also, Don's point about conservation first is most appreciated. I have a concern that we look too much to technology as a "fix" - certainly switching from coal or nuclear power to solar or wind is a wonderful thing, and yet it also requires a paring down - an intentionality about energy use, that most of us are not used to anymore, it is not "an easy fix" - and such a fix would violate the testimony of "simplicity" anyway (which, to my mind, is not to make things as easy as possible on yourself, but to live in the most direct, and simply way possible)

Oct 23, 2006 at 01:29PM | Unregistered CommenterPam
Pam, thank you very much for your comments. I totally agree with the points you are making, of course! And I appreciate your making them, as they make it easier to see why we need community projects as well as individual ones.

I will continue speaking out for community Quaker environmental efforts in every Friends community I visit. I hope you will do as well. And if there is any way I can support you in this, I hope you will let me know.
Oct 24, 2006 at 07:13AM | Registered CommenterMarshall Massey

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