God’s Environmental Policy

November 6, 2008

You can now add the Green Bible to the other hundreds of versions of the Good Book. The Guardian wrote about this environmental angle yesterday, asking “Did you know that the Bible contains 1,000 references to the planet but only 490 references to heaven and 530 references to love?”

In the Green Bible, highlighted passages include references to the earth, animals, soil, and even pollution:

Ezekiel 34:18

Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture, but you must tread down with your feet the rest of your pasture? When you drink of clear water, must you foul the rest with your feet?

I sent this to my SO who studied a bit of theology. He took a stab at the whole “dominion over the earth” quote:

All good Christians know that God is a hippy…anyone who has actually READ the…Good Book knows that God wants us to be “stewards” of the earth (meaning take freaking care of it!). So, that famous passage in the Bible about God giving man “dominion over the earth,” doesn’t mean we can just do whatever the hell we want.

Other quotes include:

Psalm 104:5, 24

You set the earth on its foundations, so that it shall never be shaken … O Lord, how manifold are your works! In wisdom you have made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.

Genesis 1:31

God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good.

Put your favorite environmental passages from the bible or sutras or torah or any other religious text in the comments!

I’ll leave you with Buddha: To live a pure unselfish life, one must count nothing as one’s own in the midst of abundance.


Another Praise of Progress

November 5, 2008

I’m adding my voice to the millions of others rejoicing in Barack Obama’s win.

I voted for Obama because he is a community organizer. He understands what it means to build support from the bottom up – to listen to, to deliberate with, to include everyday citizens.

I voted for Obama because he wants to expand not retract our freedom.

I like that Obama is half-black and half-white, because he represents what so many of us are – half, quarter, third something here and something there.

I like that Obama had to pay off student loans; he understands the costs of education.

I like that America chose change over nationalism, progress over party, the earth over materialism, cheers over boos.

My thoughts are disjointed but my heart is clear: I am happy and hopeful for our future.

Off the light!

November 3, 2008

If the world weens itself from its insatiable addiction to the dark stuff (coal), does that mean we can turn on the lights in our homes 24/7 while cranking the AC and heater on full blast?

Sure, the sun’s rays and wind’s breezes don’t emit CO2 or noxious gases, but that’s not the point of renewable energy. To paraphrase Immanuel Kant, we must treat our natural resources as an end not a means.

The sun’s value is the giver of life – when it shines flowers bloom, when it hides behind the mountains, the world turns cold. To treat it as a means to our greedy energy needs is nothing short of debasing the entire environmental movement.

Regardless of how much renewable energy infrastructure we can build, reducing energy consumption is still important with solar grids. The more energy we consume, the bigger the grid. The bigger the grid, the bigger the impact on nature – i.e. land and animal habitats.

The goal is not to replace one myopic energy plan with another. The goal is to keep looking to the future to account for our impacts. One of those impacts is our consumption!

Don’t install solar cells so that you can run your AC on high from April to September. Install them with the earth in mind.

Reaching 25% Efficiency

November 3, 2008

Solar cell technology has reached 25% efficiency, beating the 24.7% milestone.

The University of New South Wales’ ARC Photovoltaic Centre of Excellence used new knowledge about the sun’s light spectrum to build their cells.

Centre Executive Research Director, Scientia Professor Martin Green said:

“Improvements in understanding atmospheric effects upon the colour content of sunlight led to a revision of the standard spectrum in April. The new spectrum has a higher energy content both down the blue end of the spectrum and at the opposite red end with, dare I say it, relatively less green.”

Read the entire article here.

Nevada’s Solar Stats

October 24, 2008

Solar Power Rocks, um, rocks!

They have stats on each state’s rebate programs, incentives and tax credits – including Nevada. Nevada is rated with 4 stars for its dedication to renewable energy. In fact, it’s written into our legislation: 20% by 2015!

A new post they have up is about the barriers to going solar. While this is on an individual level and I’m more concerned at the state level, it’s a very good read nonetheless.

Here’s an excerpt:

1. Sticker shock/don’t see the value: The prospect of creating your own energy from the sun is very attractive and the benefits of doing so are undoubtable, however many are surprised there’s such a huge upfront cost. Well, given the current financial crisis, we urge you to re-evaluate your investment portfolio (if you have one) and consider viewing installation of solar panels on your roof an investment just the same. However, unlike the stock market, an investment in solar has a guaranteed annual rate of return of roughly 9%. Chew on that for awhile before you object to the cost.

Now, even if you don’t have more than $10,000 lying around in underperforming investments or even in your bank account, there are solar leasing, power purchase agreements, and financing options available that can solve your problem. Many times in these scenarios your monthly payment will be lower than your previous electric bill. After working out the numbers, this is a no-brainer.

What do you all think? After reading about the incentives, tax credits and options – are you willing to go solar? Why or why not?

Environmental Capital

October 23, 2008

Learned a new concept today: coal as capital.

Schumacher argues that we should treat coal and oil as capital instead of income. Because I’m not an economist, I had to ask help to figure out what exactly that meant.

With the assistance of Ed Lenert, my prof/boss I think I’ve got it down.

If you get $10 million out of a harvest of corn, the cost of reseeding, fertilizing and doing the process all over again will be returned to you the next harvest – a return on your invest for growing corn.

But with coal as a finite resource, there is no return. The cost of mining and essentially destroying the land cannot be repaired simply because it isn’t factored into the cost.

If we treated coal as the precious finite resource it is, we would have to take a conservationist attitude.

I mean, would you just throw a gold necklace away? We put a high value on it because it is rare and finite. Having the same attitude toward coal would mean reducing energy usage and investing in renewable energy.

And that’s the difference between income and capital!

Limitless Economy

October 21, 2008

An attitude to life which seeks fulfillment in the single-minded pursuit of wealth – in short, materialism- does not fit into this world, because it contains within itself no limiting principle, while the environment in which it is placed is strictly limited. – E.F. Schumacher, Small is Beautiful

This may seem like an argument pitting materialism with conservation, socialism versus capitalism, greed versus sacrifice. But this is really a question about what makes us happy and how that effects our environment.

In the preamble to our Declaration of Independence, we are endowed with the right to the pursuit of happiness.

The image of happiness impressed upon us has been, at least since the 1950s, living in a suburban home with 2.5 children, having a nice car, a beautiful spouse and a well-paying job. Most of those qualities are material. Our idea of success is easily quantifiable – how big is your paycheck?

In our modern capitalist system, we can keep consuming and consuming because the more we consume the better our economy becomes.

Indeed, after the terrorist attacks on September 11 our president, George W. Bush, asked us to go to shopping malls and spend money. Well, he wasn’t so glib. But in past times of crises leaders have asked us to sacrifice, to save, to conserve, to donate, to volunteer. Why is it that a president would make a consumerist call to action?

According to Bush, it helps the economy grow and we get stuff. Getting stuff equals instant happiness. In order to be happy, we have to consume. It’s a never ending cycle. Our consumption knows no bounds!

But this boundless pursuit of happiness has tremendous pitfalls.

Adam Smith, the father of capitalism said in The Theory of Moral Sentiments:

The great source of both the misery and disorders of human life, seems to arise from over-rating the difference between one permanent situation and another…Some of those situations may, no doubt, deserve to be preferred to others: but none of them can deserve to be pursued with that passionate ardour which drives us to violate the rules either of prudence or of justice…

Although Smith and Schumacher have differing economic philosophies, both recognize that greed and avarice leads to the destruction of societies and peace.

So what does all this high-minded babble have to do with solar energy?

Before we can move forward into the argument for renewable energy, we have to come to terms with limitations to our happiness and redefine what fulfillment means to us. (Some would argue that limitations could even make us happier.)

Would you pay more in the short term for a lifetime supply of energy? Would you invest time and money into a technology that could better our environment? Would you sacrifice a shingled roof for silicon solar cells?

What do you value more – the permanence of the sun or the ease of coal?

What would make us happy?