The ForeFront Mission

ForeFront CSL is dedicated to helping communities and individuals work, play, and live in a more sustainable way, by sharing new technologies and initiatives, and developing innovative ways to reduce, reuse and recycle the materials we use on a daily basis; championing renewable energy resources, waste management and local production as methods for living in a more sustainable manner.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Changing the Way We Live

According to the World Resources Institute, the United States’ per capita energy use exceeds the world average by more than four times. We lead the world in per capita waste production and have only recently been edged out by China as the leading producer of CO2. Notwithstanding our second place rating, our per capita CO2 production is still four times that of China (source: US Department of Energy). While proud Americans should still boast about our freedoms and opportunities, we should be able to agree that our liberty is not directly tied to our need to consume such a disproportionate amount of the world’s resources.

So how can we, as a nation, confront this issue and begin to turn the tide before it is too late. Perhaps more importantly, how can we live up to our role as a world leader in technology and innovation, helping to find solutions that will serve humankind globally. Do we really need to:
  • Bring our industrial complex to a grinding halt in order to restructure the methods that we use to generate the energy that drives production?
  • Stop enjoying our American way of life and abandon the American dream for a lifestyle more in line with developing countries?
  • Stop driving our cars and shun all products that are petroleum based?
No we don’t, and the truth is that sadly (as a nation) we would not do these things even if that is what it took to save the world. Instead, it is important to reflect on how much the lifestyle that we so enjoy can be preserved while still altering the way that we consume energy and natural resources. Can the power and creativity of our industrial might not also be used to lead the world in developing sustainable technologies? Does our way of life depend more on how many resources we consume, or is it more a reflection of how we live together and express our freedoms? If we can maintain the same level of mobility, wouldn’t we gladly utilize convenient public transportation that uses renewable energy resources, and would it really matter to us what powers our cars?

Professor Jeffrey Sachs talks about changing the way we live and setting realistic goals for revamping how we work and live. He suggests that we need to formulate a vision for thirty or forty years down the road, when clean energy technologies and new production methods could realistically be implemented and become part of our established way of living.

According to the Energy Information Administration, our energy use by sector in the United States is relatively equally divided between the industrial, transportation, residential, and commercial sectors. In turn, each sector presents unique challenges and opportunities for how to reduce our energy consumption. The trick will be to develop and introduce new technologies, altering our lifestyles in ways that will be acceptable to the majority of consumers. The same is true of the consumption of other resources; how we use water, and how we use and dispose of materials like plastic, wood and glass. Trends in household energy use by Americans show that we do want to be more responsible and consume less. But, the process of changing how we live day-to-day will take time and commitment. The simple truth is that, as a nation, we cannot continue on our present course and not expect to suffer for our irresponsibility. The time to start this process of change is now; each one of us, day by day, reshaping how we live, and doing our incremental part to alter the direction of our current consumption habits.

This is an excellent talk by Jeff Sachs about the future of energy and the global environmental movement. He is very realistic about 'what it is going to take' and also very critical of the world's governments and their ability to confront the issues and make the tough decisions.
Jeffrey Sachs Talks at the Harvard Future of Energy Seminar