Think beyond

Idea-Bulb
Photo by  Saimen.  Source: Photocase.com

I am really concern about our present. I am really concern about the way we live right now, the way we use natural and man-made resources.

I  would like to twist the preoccupation regarding our shared future as human beings inhabiting the Earth, toward the worry of how is the nowadays life lived.

The huge fixation in the current times is to procure enough energy in relation with the amount of people that presently live in the Earth, and the estimated amount of people that would inhabit the Earth in the future. The question concerns the viability to continue living ours lives the way we are used to. But my wonder is why do not give a second thought to the way we live now, and thus the way we use the energy instead. Do we really need the daily energy we spend?

Few weeks ago we had in class the experience of using a Kill a Watt to quantify the energy used by different daily-life appliances. We checked different kinds of bulbs, hair straightener, hairdryer, and electric toothbrush, among others. The results showed that the better the technology was, the less consumption of watts was needed. I found that extremely interesting: apparently there is an attempt to maximize the manner that devices work in order to ensure a proper control of heating. From what I understood in this exercise, if an appliance needs too much watts to function, it will get warmer than a device that use less energy. BUT, that does not mean we will have more light. In the old regular bulbs there is a huge percentage of energy waste into heat.

 Certainly to make a more efficient use of the energy, we will need to change to LED (light emitting-diode) energy[1]. BUT, that is not the only change we could do. The Kill a Watt experiment also raised the alertness about the energy that we unintentionally spend, the so-called vampire energy.

Kill A Watt home energy monitor
Kill A Watt home energy monitor

This consumption of energy is generated through the continuous maintenance of plugged devices that uses energy even tough they are not turned on. Why do we have theses devices sucking energy that is not being used?

 That is what I wonder when I think about the needs of energy. Yes, we will be more and more people inhabiting the Earth in the future, BUT that does not mean that we will need more and more energy. It is not the same thing.

 When I was 3 years old I discovered Chispita.  This was a very cute bulb cartoon that helped me understand what was happening in my country (well, one of the things that where happening in those days). That was in 1989.  In 1968 there was a huge drought in my country –Chile– that triggers an energetic crisis. One of the measures taken was to do not allow illuminated signs in order to save energy. They also anticipated the change of the time zone. Later on, in 1989, there was an imminent need to control the use of energy because of drought again. I remember there was an energetic rationing of TV. Shows occurred in a different time, News happened earlier, there were moments where there was no transmission, and TV programming ended before.

 What I remember from Chispita is that it was a nice bulb that talked to us –kids– in a kindly closeness manner. It asked us to arrange our toys and to turn off the TV while we do not watch it. At the end of the advertising, the sentence “la luz es vida, viva la luz” (light is life, let the light live) stays as a sort of valuable premise.

When thinking about what the slogan says I reflect that the appropriate use of the energy is what all of my fears of present –and certainly future– are about. We are no more taught to better care what we have, BUT to chase what we do not have. The problem about the future needs of energy should concern a better education about how do we use or waste the energy, and what is the difference between a necessity and a sumptuary request.

For sure we now have incredibly much more devices to plug-on than in the past. For sure we are using all the available technology to be more connected with people and to exercise a more comfortable life. BUT, to be more connected does not mean to be better connected. To live a more comfortable life does not mean to have a better life.

 We should think beyond. Maybe it is not about that we need more energy to live, BUT about that we need to live with the energy we already have. If light is life, wasting is a suicide.

I started keeping the lights off last year. I realized that the impulse to turn on the lamps is often times a mechanical action. I started wondering how much light do I really need in order to do my quotidian things. I was fascinated to realize that in order to wash my hands, to brush my teeth, to take a shower, and to tie my shoelaces –among many others– I certainly do not need light.

This is also captivating because it makes me think about how bodily connected we are with our actions and surrounding. I do know where is my face and I do know how tall is the chair. So, why would I need to light? It makes me meditate about the human inertia and the non-awareness of who we are and how we are. Maybe through keeping the lights off we could connect better with both the materiality and dimensionality of the human being. It is undoubtedly great to see, BUT it is even better to feel.

 And I have not talked yet about the lights that we usually  keep turned on. That behavior may look like a human narcissist necessity to be all the time protected and acknowledged under the Earth’s energy act of grace.

[1] For more information you may visit Dan Koeppel, “The Future of Light is the LED” http://www.wired.com/2011/08/ff_lightbulbs/all/