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