Juice: Motherhood & Appletinis

By Published On: August 3, 2012

In vain hope that both Democrats and Republicans will boot me off their robocall lists, I offer this political incorrectness. While my superego is tossing out my 50 Ways to Save The Planet, my hybrid vehicle, and my outdoor clothesline, my id is trashing my incandescent lights, my Rolls Royce, and my 103-inch plasma TV. The new, incorrect, ego is saving the planet by not kissing babies. Consider my Prius-driving, solar panel-touting, fertile neighbors. Their nuclear family plans include three children. Even if those kids grow up to have smaller carbon footprints than their folks, their numbers override any individual energy savings. For every new kid in the U.S., that’s another 12,914 kWh of electricity/year used (based on 2009 per capita consumption, according to the World Bank). Per capita data show a greenhouse gas emission rate of 18 tons/year. Electricity consumption in the U.S. per person is even higher than in the United Arab Emirates, although per capita greenhouse gas emissions are slightly lower here than in U.A.E. California’s per capita footprint is less than the national average--with electricity consumption at 7,000 kWh per capita in 2008--according to the California Energy Commission. I’m not advocating a life without family, but an education on the tradeoffs. It’s certainly not a one-to-one deal In China, where the “one child” requirement has been on the books for decades, electricity consumption was at 2,631 kWh per capita three years ago and greenhouse gas production per capita was 5.3 tons. Population is expanding, undermining conservation efforts. The U.S. census indicates there were 311 million of us in 2011, up 3 million from just a year before. Considering that’s one year’s population growth, there’s 39 billion more kWh of electricity/year being consumed. California alone approaches 38 million. World population is estimated at 7 billion. No matter the conservation, and technology in developed countries, and the poverty that drives extremely low consumption in struggling nations (Ethiopia: 46 kWh/year) that’s a lot of consumption. It also impacts the future quality of life. To address affordable housing in San Francisco, for instance, there’s a proposal to build apartments that are 120 square feet--akin to living your personal life in an allotment the size of a parking space. Finding housing in the Inland Empire offers more space, but it’s a life made possible by air conditioned space to air conditioned car and back again. Energy technologies will help, but the quality of life in a resource-dwindling and more-crowded state is questionable. The parental instinct is powerful. There’s no end of expensive fertility clinics, surrogates, and scams. My least favorite was a friend who was injecting Catholic nun’s urine into herself to increase her fecundity. (It didn’t work.) Perhaps the new way to save the planet is to work on the concept of family from “conception” to “caring.” While that’s not the province of policymakers, energy education is. Instead of bill stuffers, think comic books. In developing educational materials on how to reduce energy consumption, the state should present information in much the way the Census Bureau does--although in a more easily understood manner. Conservation and consumption statistics should be broken down by household--a one-person household consumes this much, two-person, etc., and then compare a traditional consumption household to one that conserves. Future projection is useful. If a two-person household has three children, what will that mean to consumption when they turn driving age? If California’s population increased from 38 million to 42 million, what does that mean to consumption, cost, and pollution? Politicians can go ahead and kiss all the babies they want. While encouraging patriotism, encourage investing in the future--your kids and the rest of the planet’s. That’s environmental patriotism.

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