Our gadgets increase chances of ecological doomsday – yes, I mean your iPod, too

Posted September 21st, 2009 in Blog, Featured 1 Comment »

Fostering Ecological Hope
Today from Margaret Swedish:

Oh, we love our high tech gadgets, don’t we?  Plasma TV screens, iPods, video game consoles, all those batteries plugged in for recharge, and on and on. We have little lights shining all through our houses, along the baseboards, on our power strips, on our appliances, our sound systems, our computers, modems and wireless boxes.  We don’t have just one flat screen TV, we have a bunch in every household now (if you’re rich enough or have enough of a credit line on your credit card).

Turns out these toys use up so much electricity that they are becoming a leading source of increased energy demand all around the world.  Check this out from yesterday’s NY Times front page: A Plugged-In World, With a Hunger for Electricity:

Electricity use from power-hungry gadgets is rising fast all over the world. The fancy new flat-panel televisions everyone has been buying in recent years have turned out to be bigger power hogs than some refrigerators.

The proliferation of personal computers, iPods, cellphones, game consoles and all the rest amounts to the fastest-growing source of power demand in the world. Americans now have about 25 consumer electronic products in every household, compared with just three in 1980.

Worldwide, consumer electronics now represent 15 percent of household power demand, and that is expected to triple over the next two decades, according to the International Energy Agency, making it more difficult to tackle the greenhouse gas emissions responsible for global warming.

To satisfy the demand from gadgets will require building the equivalent of 560 coal-fired power plants, or 230 nuclear plants, according to the agency.

Friends, we are building coal-fired power plants – plants that are the greatest single source of greenhouse gas emissions, electric power from which comes by way of blowing up Appalachian Mountains, destroying streams and valleys, and contaminating Appalachian communities — so that we can have bigger, brighter, sharper TV screens!

I recommend reading this entire article, not just this excerpt.  But the excerpt sounds the alarm — we have found a new way to drive up our energy usage exponentially, contradicting any efforts now being made towards energy efficiency, renewable and regenerative energy sources, scaled down consumption — you know, those things necessary to pull ourselves back from the brink of ecological catastrophe.

Now I’ve gotta ask all my readers to give me hope here because this poses a pretty big question to the culture — would you, we, U.S. Americans, Japanese and Europeans, or emerging affluent people in other cultures, scale back our purchases and use of these toys, despite the pleasure they give us, or how cool they make us feel (or uncool if we don’t have them), indeed, would we give them up altogether in order to give our children a shot at a decent, enriching, fulfilling life on this planet?

Now I was prepared to write more about that, but I will stop here — except for this one reflection.  I know these personal technology toys are addicting — I mean that sincerely, they actually are.  I also know that we have a hard time believing that this little toy in my hand with the qwerty keypad could threaten the survival of life on the planet as we have known it in this age of hominids.  So, given that this culture has never given up consumer symbols of affluence, coolness, and personal pleasure willingly, even when faced with dire consequences, will our behavior be impacted at all by this information?

And, if not, what does this say about our chances for restoring ecological wholeness, for curing ourselves of this disease of living wrongly on the planet by taking what we want from it for the pleasure and economies of humans no matter its impact on ecosystems now, much less the future?

What does this say about ecological hope?

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To see what California is prepared to do about this, check out: California may pull plug on big TVs that guzzle energy.

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One Response

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