One of my New Year’s resolutions was to write more about things that I care about but often neglect. All in all, the general theme of my 2020 aspirations is something along the lines of “live deliberately.” The thing about living deliberately is, you gotta think about what’s going on a lot more. I find this leads to some thoughts and feelings that vary between being fairly insightful and nearly inconsequential. So every once in a while I’m going to try to document those thoughts and feelings when the mood strikes. I hope that it’s somehow helpful or interesting to you or someone you know.
All pictures I found on Google (technically Ecosia, because I’m a prick)
Today I woke up to the news that the U.S. had officially killed a top Iranian official in response to the increased provocation by Iran. I don’t know enough about the socio-political situation in the region to be a judge, but two nuclear powers fighting is never good and my understanding is that Trump did this without proper approval and without consulting pretty much anyone except the war-hawks in his inner circle, so that is troubling.
I got a good amount of work done today, so that was a point of pride in my personal life. I was cleaning my room, which I’ve been meaning to do, and it really felt nice to be able to check something off of my never-ending to do list. That being said, I kept throwing away plastic that couldn’t be recycled and having a mini anxiety attack about it, as I often do, and I had the pretty dismal thought that if somebody vowed to go a day without ever touching a piece of plastic, that would be pretty hard.
In related news, I did my best to use as little electricity as possible. I’m realizing that the act of NOT using as much energy, namely doing things mechanically rather than electronically such as riding instead of driving or hand washing clothes, takes up a lot more time. That is another cost to the system, though it does save costs in terms of money. And money, in many ways, does equal time. I’ve been really happy using my new solar panel, which is much bigger than the one I used this summer to charge my phone. This one is about as big as me, and charges a battery that looks like it could jumpstart my car.
I was hoping to be able to use my new solar panel today, the forecast at one point had said that it was going to be sunny. I was especially motivated to use it because I had recently plugged my space heater into the battery, and learned that on its highest setting it takes between 900 and 1200 watts of energy to power it. That’s way more than anything else that I’ve plugged into it so far. It also was a sobering realization that even though it’s an awesome set up, it is far from allowing me to be able to offset a good chunk of my energy usage, even in the summer when it’s much more sunny.
This reminded me of a post that a friend and mentor of mine had shared on social media recently. He had mentioned that it was really difficult to power his off-grid home with solar in the winter, because Michigan tends to have so many cloudy days this time of year. He illustrated this point with a stat that said we’d had only a handful of sunny days since October, or something like that. So I was further disheartened about my ability to generate sustainable energy for myself, and began to consider other options for doing so. I could burn biomass for heat, as long as I grew enough of it in the Summertime. That would take a lot of work and a lot of physical space. I would also need to install some sort of chimney or other heating mechanism in my room.
This brought me to the concept of “energy budgeting.” The idea is fairly straight forward; in the same way that we all must budget our finances because we have a limited amount of money and a seemingly endless amount of ways to spend it, energy budgeting is the act of weighing the costs and benefits of using a certain amount of energy. I could power my space heater, for example, but that might mean cold showers for a certain amount of time. We do a version of this when we read our energy bill and realize that we had to pay more because we left a certain light on in the closet all winter, but this is slightly different as it attempts to proactively limit energy use rather than just dealing with the consequences of using too much (which we are currently doing now, both with DTE and with the wildfires in Australia).
This prompted me to think about the balance between personal action and societal change. I still believe that individual actions and mindsets can have a huge impact, not only in terms of physical resources used and such, but also in changing the societal climate that might allow more ambitious action to be taken by the government and industries. That being said, in my current capacity I cannot generate enough energy to be completely sustainable / renewable, so it would be really nice if DTE pumped clean energy into my home for me to use instead of me having to do it on my own. That is the societal part. The individual part is that I’ve been trying to use my space heater only when absolutely necessary, and I made a modest $17.82 donation to earthjustice.org, because “the earth needs a good lawyer.” That’s a great slogan, I think.