Thursday, April 12, 2012

What’s in a footprint?

     For most of his time on earth, man has been a minor consumer of the earth’s stores of energy. With the discovery of fire man began to increase his demands and draw on the short-term energy stores that had been accumulated over scores of years or even centuries by woody plants.  In the last hundred years with the invention of the internal combustion engine and a huge increase in population man has begun to tap the planets long-term energy supplies of oil and natural gas at an alarming rate. We have shaped a world where our lifestyles revolve around and are dependent on oil and the consumption of energy from fossil fuels.

    To make a proper assessment of our individual energy footprint it is necessary to allow and factor in not only the gasoline burned on the trip to the store but the number of “BTU”s (British Thermal Units, a measurement of heat ) used to make the new metal pan you purchased. Add to this a share of the energy used to package the pan, get the item to the store, and operate the store till you bought the pan. Only when we begin to include in our footprint, part of the energy in all the different variables thrust upon us by society, and used on our behalf, can we get a proper and true picture of our energy footprint.

   People often forget small actions do add up. I have heard people say they can't turn down the heat in their home when they go on vacation because of the dog or they have a fish tank. I have seen an employee turn on all the lights and bring a large building up to full temperature when they stop by their closed office for two hours on a Sunday or even worse to put the thermostat on "hold" so the office will be warm when they arrive the next morning. A family that takes two cars on a trip for a little more room or so they don't have to be inconvenienced is another example of how people often feel they are entitled and deserve to dip into the vast stores of the world's unlimited bounty. This is all is completely on them, a little waste here, and poor planning there adds up rather fast and can cause the size of their footprint to explode.
    Looking at our impact in this way may seem unfair to some people but creates a more realistic and somewhat uglier picture of our true energy use. Only when prorating our share of the energy used  to light the street in front of our home while we sleep and assuming responsibility for our share of the energy used to light the bridge not far from our home as well as the energy used to create junk mail, deliver it to your home each day then haul it off to a recycling plant or landfill are the last touches that must be placed on the portrait named “My True Impact” Under this premise, if we personalize the question and ask, what's in my energy footprint? I fear the answer is far more than what most of us would like to admit.

Footnote; Two other posts dealing with our attitudes about waste are listed below. The first delves into the fact that those running for public office appear almost afraid to utter the word "conserve" and the other about how the massive support system required by the automobile is massively overpowering.

1 comment:

  1. Individual ecological footprint is meaningless in the context of human POPULATION footprint.
    Its orders of magnitude more effective AND easier to say NO to breeding and multiplying and playing house like some brainless little girl watching too much pop-tv.
    "having kids" "lets have a kid for fun" "i'm bored, lets have a few kids", "i want to have 2 kids..."