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"In 2009: A Resolution to Conserve" by Josh Trought, Director, D Acres of NH

This is the time of year for reflection and resolution. The short dark days and long nights aids the mind in contemplation and review of past events; the hibernation of winter prepares us to pursue our goals for the future. It is traditional to make New Year's resolutions for personal goals like quitting smoking or losing weight. This year let's keep planetary goals at the forefront while making personal changes for the year to come.

2008 was a monumental year in the discussion of energy. The reality that there is a limited supply of oil has caused price fluctuations and international war. The political response has been to drill the last remaining reserves as quickly as possible while also advocating "safe" nuclear and "clean" coal technological solutions. This approach ignores the safest, cleanest and most peaceful solution to climate change and resource depletion: Conservation.

In the late 1970's conservation was part of the energy crisis solution. One of the differences in perception since that period is the understanding of our individual footprints. Each individual can measurably assess the amount of energy and resources they use. The average American, for example, consumes 24-acres worth of resources, yet under an equitable distribution, the world can only support a 4-acre footprint per person. If every person consumed resources at the rate of the average American, seven Earths would be required. By tracing the source of our individual energy and resource consumption, we can prioritize steps towards sustainable levels of energy use.

Energy conservation is not the sexiest solution to the energy crisis. In our consumer society frugal and thrifty behavior has been ridiculed and demoted in favor the paradigm of unlimited growth. In this era of cheap energy our way of life has become dependent on energy consumption. We must take steps to reduce our energy use to levels that are sustainable. Towards this end we can resolve every year to take steps towards energy conservation.

At D Acres we began New Years Conservation Resolutions three years ago when we disengaged our electric garage door openers. The openers were frustrating, sometimes closing halfway and opening again because a sensor suspected a person trapped underneath. There was also a light on the opener that stayed on incessantly day or night. Manually opening the doors has been a simple transition, especially once the doors springs were properly adjusted.

Two years ago we unplugged the instant hot water heater. The water heater had been installed to provide hot water for beverages in place of repeatedly heating water through the day on the stovetop. In the summer, we felt that the electric element in the heater would be less efficient than heating water once or twice a day using the suncooker or gas stove and then storing the hot water in a thermos. In the winter, we heat the water on the woodstove. Although this may be perceived as less convenient, it was simply a change of routine.
As electric heating is very intensive, last year we gave up the toaster. No more conveniently heated toast to melt butter on. No more cheesy bread. Although there was a near relapse during the first two weeks, by March the residents had forgotten their energy intensive addiction to toast. And there were no more toaster fires from the melted cheese.

This year we are considering other options for Conservation Resolutions. Will D Acres adopt a no driving day? Should we build a cooler on the north side of the house to fill with snow for freezer and refrigeration capacity until June? Should we limit computer and stereo times? Can we build bicycle-powered equipment that will operate our woodworking and clothes washing machines?

Perhaps you are not ready for such radical simplifications in your life. That's okay; the point is to take steps. Each change you make often helps induce subsequent changes. Ideas may include replacing burnt out bulbs with higher efficiency lighting or car-pooling to the grocery store. Turn lights out when you're not in the room, unplug your TV when you're not watching it, dry your clothes on a rack, put on a sweater and turn your heat down, buy less, walk more, be your own entertainment and simplify. Energy can be conserved by eating local agricultural products, so resolve to shop using Local Foods Plymouth on the web at http://lfp.dacres.org/ .

A global economy depends on abundant, cheap energy and the exploitation of people and resources. If we are to overcome the dark economic forecasts for the future we must learn to live well from what is available locally. We are blessed with the northern forest, available water, and Yankee ingenuity. To create a viable, locally-based economy is the key to regional SustainAbility.

Saving energy is the solution to our global energy, pollution and climate change crisis. The US consumes 25% of the world's resources with only 4% of the world's population. People often ask what can be done in the face of such complex problems in the world. The answer is step by step. We as individuals, and a nation must collectively change our consumptive habits, making short-term behavior changes for the long-term common good. The responsibility for solutions does not come from Washington DC, but from us. It is up to us to recognize the situation and take the necessary steps for the good of the people and the planet, today and tomorrow. Please resolve to conserve in 2009 for the betterment of all.

Josh Trought, Director, D Acres of NH

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