Thursday, May 10, 2007

Mother's Day, or 700 Gallons

I was just reminded that it is Mother's Day this weekend. I had forgotten. It's the year birthday (anniversary?) of me purchasing my "new" car, the 2006 Honda Civic. I didn't get the Hybrid version, and I'm kicking myself for it.

I mean, the reality is that I'd have to drive this car for the next 20 years to make up for the gas savings with the hybrid technology, and this technology is new, which generally means that it's more prone to problems. The hybrid was much more expensive than the regular Civic. I don't know how many and how much toxins are released into the world in the production of the hybrid's battery, and who knows whether the Civic Hybrid will ultimately be better for the environment than the regular one. And I didn't want to wait the six weeks or whatever it was to get the thing, especially without being able to test drive it; evidently they were so much in demand that the dealership literally had none to show me.


We all know that the release of carbon and other greenhouse gases is spelling doom. We are starting to see the results of this. Isn't it amazing? Thirty years ago, it was a theory, but no one actually believed it. Those who did were far, far on the fringe. The Earth is such a huge and powerful force, there's nothing that we humans could do to change it. "The solution to pollution is dilution." But that only goes so far. How much salt can you add to fresh water before it becomes unpalatable?

It's just the right thing to do, to spend the extra money on the technology to save a little bit. A tiny bit. I drive about 500 miles a week. I get in the neighborhood of 37 miles/gallon. That's, what, almost 14 gallons of gas just released into the atmosphere. Weekly. That's about 700 gallons a year. (And let's not mention that the current cost of gas in my county is about $3.40, which is about $2400 a year.) Did I do the math right?

Okay, so 700 gallons of greenhouse gases are owned by me. I am responsible for that much. (And this is just for me driving my car---let's not forget how my environmental footprint increases when taking into account the electricity I use, the exhaust from any air travel, the transportation costs of the food I eat and the clothes I wear, the propane used to heat the water I use to shower every day, the pesticides sprayed on the strawberries I eat, the toxins released from the paper I use, the mercury released from the batteries I have thrown away, the petroleum that has been in my life from plastic bags to vasoline to ... I can get carried away.)

700 gallons a year. And according to this site, the United States uses about 700 million gallons of oil a day. Half of that is for transportation. Maybe I shouldn't be so worried about my piddly 700 gallons.

The rape of the earth is humanity's biggest sin. And how did I celebrate Mother's Day, a year ago? I bought a car. (Well, I needed a new car, and just happened to do it on Mother's Day, but still.) The biggest instrument of the Mother Earth's destruction. What have we done, what have we done...

And my husband pointed out to me that he bought his car on the year anniversary of 9/11. Oh, the irony.


The Agent of Entropy said...

I completly understand where you are coming from, we made the same calucation. I wish we had the money to make green decsions where the green question was not refering to the color of momey.

Meera Hyphenated said...

Hear, hear.

FullQuieting said...

All true, and yet, easy on the guilt. You did buy a reasonably efficient vehicle.

There's plenty we can do in the defense of clean land, sea, and air that doesn't cost anything. Volunteer at a beach cleanup, trail days, non-native plant removal, and the like. Some of these are very family friendly too.

I'll join you, promise!

Meera Hyphenated said...

Oh sure, definitely, it's not like I bought a Ford Explosion that gets 10 miles/gallon! But I feel like I need to take responsibility for the resources I do use, even though I may have made some decent choices when I compare with everyone else.

Yes. You're right, though. It's not so much "put your money where your mouth is"; it's more "put your time and energy (so to speak) where your mouth is". I need to be more active, no question.

Ozarkian said...

I don't want to cause a stink, well, yes I do, but I still have issues with the greenhouse-gas thing. The earth has gone through these cycles many times in the past. I understand the theory that we are exacerbating the problem, and agree, but I can not tell how much. I am ticked about the amount of pollution we create, and would like to see this area addressed, but the greenhouse effect still leaves me puzzled. The solar system moves through a sinusoidal track through the central disk of the galaxy. As a result, our climate is going to go through changes every 10,000 years or so. I suspect that we are coupling that effect with our own impact. I feel the change we can make is not only with our vehicles (yes, I know... I am defending my ownership of a diesel pickup), but how we live. Many of us do not really require traveling to work (we've discussed this). Give me a computer and a phone line and I am set. I have meetings with people all over the world while sitting on my deck and looking at the San Lorenzo Valley. As you suggest, no use of energy is truly helpful. The task is not to change the energy source, but to remove the need for that energy.

My rant for now...

Meera Hyphenated said...

Well, okay. First off, you're sticking your head in the sand if you think that the Greenhouse Effect---or, more accurately, global climate change---is not grossly accelerated by the so-called "first world"'s misuse of energy and energy production. There is far too much evidence to say otherwise. (Go see An Inconvenient Truth. Go. I’ll wait.

Secondly, we agree that a significant way to address the problem is to reduce energy usage. You'll find no argument there from me. That said, the reality is that We Use Energy. Whether it be from oil, coal, natural gas, solar power, hydro-electric power, wind, ethanol, or gerbils running on a wheel---unless we want to go back to using candles and horses (and even then there is unwanted waste), we will have to address from where we want to get that power. There simply must be more research done to find an alternative to the options that are available now. We have no choice.

I know that my car is emitting gasses that affect the environment. I want to lessen the impact that I have, personally, on the environment. We compost, we recycle, we wash plastic bags, we don’t buy bottled water, and since we’re currently in drought conditions, we’re even letting the yellow mellow and flushing the brown down, and I’m not making the kids take a bath every day (they go swimming every day; they won’t stink). You’re preaching to the choir when it comes to telecommuting… I can’t even begin to tell you how irate I am that I can’t telecommute. It’s the biggest beef I have with my current place of employ. The next best thing is to get a good vehicle that commutes with a minimum of impact. I don’t know… seems to me a hybrid may indeed be the best way to go, in spite of the questions about the environmentally questionable battery.

Ozarkian said...

That movie is on my list of things to watch, but don't expect me to be impressed. I don't want to insult your liberal instincts, but I think Al Gore is a spoiled moron.I will watch it, though, and get back to you.

I agree that we are exacerbating the cycles with our output. We have long ago gone away from cheap aerosols that release chemicals that bond with ozone and deplete the barrier (have you noticed that no one talks about that anymore?).

I don't think we are paying enough attention to the real culprits for impact, though. New vehicles (yes, even my big diesel) have vastly improved filtering systems. It's the clunkers that we see all too often in the area we live that are spilling crud into the environment. The other things that contribute a bit are the small engines. Even that has gotten better. Heck, my chainsaw has a device in it as a result of being purchased in California that keeps breaking, but is supposed to limit emissions.

Ultimately, we talk about changing power sources. I noticed that one of best power sources was left off of your list! Nuclear power is the cleanest as far as the air is concerned. We could run the Bay Area off of nuclear power for five years with a waste product that is only the size of a few marbles. We can and know how to store this, but Americans have turned their backs on this sort of power. With the exception of wind power, which is unpredictable and prone to high maintenance costs, no other power source is as low impact.

Let's face it. The human race is a parasite. We feed off of everything around us, grow exponentially, and have only recently started realizing the impact. I have gotten letters from logging groups urging me to fight the new regulations that will limit logging to property sizes larger than mine. They are writing to the wrong person. I know I pay a fortune for lumber, but that's ok. I like my trees, and feel a pang of regret when I walk around here and see a 10+' diameter redwood stump.

Geez, I am rambling. I guess I feel that our energy use has gotten beyond what is necessary. I don't think it is the research that has to be pursued as much as it is the change in infrastructure. We know some things we can do, but getting people to do them is hard. Engines based on natural gas are more efficient and produce less crud, but how do we make the change?

Alright, enough putzly rambling... I solve this whole problem in the next year...