Is electricity natural?

I got to listen to a fascinating conversation in the car today about whether electricity can be considered natural. One of the arguments for it was that electricity can come from nature: the sun, wind, water. The other argument was that the power doesn’t exist in nature, it has to be created through a human made process.

This was between two seven-year-olds in the backseat of my car on the way home from day camp.

I was impressed with their thoughtfulness and interest in a subject that many people decades older have no real knowledge or consideration of the source of what powers so many conveniences we take for granted. Electricity has changed humanity and most people don’t even realize just how reliant we have become on it and at what cost.

Wind Energy in Eastern Washington

Most electricity is not produced from those renewable resources that the boys were talking about. Most electricity is generated by fossil fuels.

Role of Renewables in US Energy

According to the latest numbers from the EPA, the emissions created by electric utilities in the U.S. are:

  • Sulfur Dioxide (SO2) – 5,970 thousand metric tons
  • Nitrogen Oxides (NOx) – 2,395 thousand metric tons
  • Carbon Dioxide (CO2) – 2,269,508 thousand metric tons

Carbon Dioxide gets a lot of attention because of the direct link to climate change. Global atmospheric concentrations of CO2 were 35% higher than they were before the Industrial Revolution. Climate change is beginning to affect us all and will continue to worsen for people, animals, and total ecosystems.

Sulfur Dioxide and Nitrogen Oxides are of great concern when it comes to air pollution because of its ability to react with other compounds in the atmosphere and form small particles that make their way deep into our lungs. The adverse health effects may include respiratory illness, such as asthma, emphysema, and bronchitis.

We know that the increased energy consumption is causing us and our children direct harm.

So the challenge this week from Change The World Wednesday was to reduce our electricity consumption. CTWW - Change The World Wednesdays

I am lucky (sometimes) to live in a climate that typically has no use for air conditioning. I started to keep track of everything else that my family uses on a daily basis to see what could be reduced or eliminated. Really I found that this challenge was a great opportunity to work with my kids on understanding what uses electricity and how we can reduce our whole family’s consumption.

I can run around the house all day turning lights off behind the kids (and the husband). I can emphatically let the kids know we will not be taking the elevator at the library or keep appliances on or plugged in when we aren’t using them. It doesn’t matter unless they realize why we should do those things.

So how can we relate these choices to something real in their lives?

Find out what is important or interesting to your kids and find age-appropriate ways to link their actions to a consequence.

  • Disappearing habitats for polar bears, coral reefs, loggerhead turtles, trout, salmon, wolverines, walruses, monarch butterflies, among others.
  • Forests around the world are vulnerable to the effects of climate change due to drought, pests, and increased risk of wildfire.
  • Water supplies are already in short supply in some parts of the world. Climate change only worsens the problem.
  • Recreational opportunities may diminish, particularly for skiers, fishermen, and beach lovers as climate change affects temperature and erosion.

My kids love to know that actions have meaning. They also love games. Combine the two and we have a winning combination for change. Once the kids believe that they are saving energy for a reason. Let them see how many things they can change to reduce electricity use around the house and when you are out.

Take it up a notch and see what you can actually cut out for a day, a week, that actually has an impact on your life. We chose to cut out tv and video games, although I think it would be interesting to attempt to give up all electricity for a day. I wonder how well we would fare?

What could you change to temporarily change your energy consumption? What about long-term?


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Is electricity natural? — 14 Comments

  1. Solar cooking reduced my energy consumption by almost 30%. In NC, we have an average of 272 days a year available for solar cooking. Check my site and you’ll see the variety of meals that can be done. A friend of mine, living in a 3200 sq.ft. house, unplugged everything not immediately needed (lamps, radios, rooms less visited, etc.) and saw a serious drop in her electric bill. Said it was very hard at the beginning (and irritating) but the savings was worth the trouble. So, it’s not just turning off some items, but actually unplugging them. Some folks leave their chargers plugged in for fast access. It is the little things.
    SharleneT recently posted..Solar Pavlova – Perfect Summer Dessert

    • Sometimes change is hard and irritating at first, then we just get used to it. The hard part is getting started or having the motivation to make the change in the first place.

      I love what you do on your site. Solar cooking is fascinating to me!

  2. Another thought provoking post! I’ll confess that we got lazy when we moved into our house–we were unmetered for about 5 years so we really did not feel the financial impact of our electrical use (the power company used a formula based on our water consumption to determine our bill). After we finally(!) got our meter, our first bill was a wake up call for how wasteful we had become.

    My latest change has to be to stop running both computers during the day just so I could have the desktop to listen to music. In addition to saving electricity, it has enabled me to concentrate better because I don’t have to listen to the constant noise from the fan from the desktop.

  3. Very interesting. I do as much as I can but I advise not going as far as I did when I decided to save electricity by going down the stairs in the dark – and trod on one of our cats, getting thrown up in the air and landing on the other, breaking her leg. Used up waaaaay more energy getting her healed, poor thing.
    Alison Golden – The Secret Life of a Warrior Woman recently posted..Why Twins Should Not Become One

  4. Great post!

    Here in NZ the majority of our power is generated from hydro-electric stations … which sounds lovely until you consider the huge consequences to our waterways downstream (and upstream) as the rivers are dammed & water redirected.

    My kids are fabulous at saving power – not sure they really get the why of it all just yet, but I may have done a bit too much of a good job explaining the urgency and importance of it as my 3 year old has a tendancy for great panic if lights are left on …
    Meg recently posted..Doing Good in 140

  5. My first time here. Came from CTWW. I was impressed by the conversation of the 7 year olds, maybe there is hope for the planet yet with awareness at such a young age.

    I loved the post, and will have to explore your blog further.

    I will comment on Meg about NZs situation (I am a Kiwi, albeit an ex-pat), we are having the same argument here in Brazil at the moment over Belo Monte dam which has been polemic for 30 years for exactly the reasons that she points out. The effects of building the world’s third largest hydro dam on the Xingu river is going to have an enormous impact of the jungle biodiversity and the sociological impact is horrendous, but the govt is ploughing ahead, heedless.

    I will also comment on the ‘green’ production of power by wind farms. While on the surface they appear to be ‘the’ answer, it has been discovered that the disruption in natural airflow for many kilometres behind them is destroying farmland, turning it arid and laying it to waste.

    Everything man does, has an impact on the planet, which is why it is gratifying to see two 7 year olds talking about problems that we never had when I was 7 (53 years ago).

    Argentum Vulgaris recently posted..Pizza & Chardonnay

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