Sunday, July 08, 2007

Answering the Call and Getting a Hang-up

After a marathon baking session and dropping off all my baked goods at the Solano County Fairgrounds, I spent the rest of the afternoon and evening parked on the divan, spinning and flipping channels to watch the LiveEarth concerts. Mindless, if relatively preachy, entertainment, and just what I was in the mood for, after all the baking.

For those who were in the mountains and completely cut off from civilization for the past week or two, LiveEarth was a series of 9 concerts on 7 different continents, featuring 150 artists, most of whom you've never heard of. I must admit, I was surprised by a few absences--most notably, U2--but I guess their Big Issues (Africa and baby seals) take priority over the planet. Or perhaps they felt, as Roger Daltry commented, "No concert is going to save the Earth." Perhaps not, but it was nice to see a benefit concert series that didn't hit you up for money every 2 seconds; instead, the organizers and their sponsors (most notably, Philips--the lightbulb company) just reminded people to recycle, drive less, and replace their incandescent lightbulbs with Compact Fluorescents (CFs), in the hope that you would run down to your local home improvement store and buy CFs--preferably Philips--to replace your wasteful incandescent bulbs.

The continuing refrain through all this was "Answer the Call," but the exact details were a little fuzzy. At one point yestday, Al Gore ("the former 'next president of the United States'") exhorted the crowd at the "New York" (actually, the Meadowlands in East Rutherford, NJ) to take a pledge to do all this stuff (get the United States to sign the Kyoto Accords, cut personal CO2 pollution, not support construction of any more coal-fired power plants, etc.), but most of it is pretty vague. I've noticed over the years that, while people like grand statements ("Cut CO2 emissions"), they need specific tasks to get anything done ("Turn the thermostat down and put on a sweater.").

The downside of events such as LiveEarth is that they really are "one-day wonders." Everybody comes together for a great day of great music (personally, I would have paid for a ticket to the concert in London's New Wembley Stadium), but once the music is over, everybody goes home and goes right back to what they were doing on Friday, albeit with a sunburn and a hangover. It doesn't address the issue (the environment), perhaps because the real work for environmental change is just that: work. It's sitting in meetings, talking to people, reading research, writing letters, articles (and these days, blogs), sitting in more meetings, talking to more people, helping draft legislation, and so on. People remember the first Earth Day (April 22, 1970), but most people don't remember what led up to it: a horrendous oil spill off the beautiful coasts of Ventura and Santa Barbara counties in California that was the largest oil spill until the Exxon Valdez disaster in 1989. Most people also don't remember what came after: lots of work, lawsuits, politicking, and finally legislation to give California some of the toughest environmental laws in the U.S., including banning oil-drilling off the California coast. The laws have been effective--California is a pretty darned nice place to live--but they took a lot of work, and continue to take a lot of work to keep everybody following them. All that work never was mentioned yesterday as people enjoyed listening to the Beastie Boys, Alicia Keys, and the Police.

The other problem with issue-generated concerts such as LiveEarth're preaching to the choir here in the Jacobson household. I switched most of the lightbulbs to CFs years ago; in some cases, I'm on my second CF (the porch light). I didn't do it because I'm a "granola-eating, Birkenstock-wearing, blissninny" (although I do like granola and Birkenstocks), but because they save money and I'm cheap. Same for the water-saving showerhead, and the hot water heater set at 135 degrees, and the thermostat set at 65 during the winter ("You're cold? Put a sweater on!"), and recycling all the pop cans, and separating the garbage, and, and, and... You get the picture. I grew up in a household where saving money was essential, and the less money that went for the utility bills, the better, so I learned to take really quick showers, save water, turn off lights, and wear sweaters. I still follow that same philosophy today; if it helps the environment, so much the better.

So, in the dual interests of saving money and helping the environment, here's how to make your very own "GottLite" for less than $10 (a knock-off of a very expensive brand of craft light):


Equipment needed:
1 lamp that uses a standard incandescent bulb
1 5000K (aka "daylight") CF for an incandescent bulb socket

Unplug the lamp. Remove the incandescent bulb. Screw in the CF. Plug the lamp in. Turn the lamp on and use.