There’s a perception that green is more expensive and less convenient, and, truth to say, that’s sometimes true. It is more expensive to buy your groceries at Whole Foods. And putting solar panels on your roof doesn’t really save you money for many years, if at all, (although it’s still less than buying a new car).
But on the other hand, we know that there are lots of green things you can do that actually save money – replacing your incandescent lights with compact fluorescents is one familiar example. And if you’re building a house, putting in lots more insulation than is required by code can save a huge amount of both money and energy, while making your home more comfortable.
Sometimes it’s small changes that can flip this perception. I have a recent example from my own life that brought this home to me (so to speak):
Oh Snap! Now some German scientists have (in effect) taken a swing at Stanford professor Mark Z. Jacobson, who concluded in a recent paper that biofuels are a bad policy direction (see summary post here).
Their key discovery is that by reforesting land that has been “degraded by human use in historical times”, they found:
… the global energy demand projected by the International Energy Agency in the Reference Scenario for the year 2030 could be provided sustainably and economically primarily from lignocellulosic biomass grown on areas which have been degraded by human activities in historical times.
Nicholas Kristof in his NY Times op-ed today urges Obama to appoint a Secretary of Food:
A Department of Agriculture made sense 100 years ago when 35 percent of Americans engaged in farming. But today, fewer than 2 percent are farmers. In contrast, 100 percent of Americans eat.
The interests of big agriculture – the “factory farmers” – are really opposed to the interests of people. The “food” they raise wastes energy, causes huge environment damage, makes us unhealthy, and even leads to antibiotic resistant diseases.
On the other hand, real family farmers, who grow non-factory food on relatively small farms, are good for us, good for the environment, and good for our health.
If you feel this is a good cause, check out the online petition at www.fooddemocracynow.org, which calls for a reformist pick for agriculture secretary — and names six terrific candidates, including Chuck Hassebrook, a reformer in Nebraska and Fred Kirschenmann, an organic farmer and researcher in Pocantico Hills, NY.
For more on food policy and its relation to health, environment, and policy, check out Michael Pollan’s “Open Letter To The Next Farmer In Chief” in the October 12 New York Times Magazine. Eye-opening and inspiring, like all of his work.