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How Much Do You Care?

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I’m writing this on a very hot day somewhere south of London. Mayor Ken Livingstone has recently been reported by the BBC as having said that some London Underground lines might have to close on hot days in the future because it might not be safe for people to travel. He’s not saying this will happen this year, but at some point in the future. And though he is not mentioning global warming, you could easily get the impression this is not far from his mind.

At the same time, Transport for London is busy waxing lyrical about its cooling system for deeper underground stations which uses groundwater already being pumped out of the stations to help cool them down. This is being trialled at Victoria station and if it is successful it could be rolled out further.

Let’s take a look at the bigger picture. The world’s oil reserves are running low. I won’t go into it in detail here, but mooch around at the Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas web site if you want to learn more.

There is a debate on when the oil will start to dry up, but general agreement that it will do so at some point, and that it won’t be too far into the future. That’s a big lead into the UK Government’s recent Energy Review. Apparently, Tony Blair has decided he rather likes the idea of nuclear energy as part of the solution to our future energy problems.

We humans are clever and we have plenty of alternatives for energy generation such as wind, wave and solar. Blair has not turned his back on the idea of putting a bit of an effort into these, but both as a nation and as a planet we don’t seem to be able to take developing these alternatives seriously enough.

It is easy to be passive about all this and to put the responsibility onto Big Government working both nationally and in unity internationally to make the huge policy decisions necessary to get us out of the energy hole we seem to be digging deeper and deeper.

But individuals are powerful and we can change things. The Energy Review mentions making homes more energy efficient as one of its targets, for example.

As an individual, if you can afford the installation costs you can use solar power. You can even generate more energy than you consume and sell the surplus to the national grid. Initial start-up costs are high so you won’t be in profit for many years, but even knowing that this is possible is quite a thought, eh?

Not all actions require a huge initial outlay of cash. Switch off appliances that sit on standby, only boil the water you need for your hot drinks instead of filling the kettle, use energy saving light bulbs, shower rather than bathe, turn your thermostat down a degree, make sure your home is well insulated and so on. Any of these can reduce your energy consumption and, as an added bonus, some will save you money pretty quickly.

Then there’s the decisions we can make that require a bit more thought, a bit more of a lifestyle change. Choose to buy things that have minimal packaging, and avoid stuff that is ‘double wrapped’; buy local where possible. These actions aren’t so immediately obvious as ‘energy saving’, but energy is used to manufacture wrapping and to transport goods around the world– apples from New Zealand, anyone?

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