Thursday, August 5, 2010

Conservation is just for the little people

7,000 gallons of jet fuel per hour
As the Blue Angels jets shriek back and forth over my apartment in Seattle, it occurs to me that there's a pretty serious chasm between people's environmental conservation efforts at home and the example set by our government--not just at the international industry level, but the local, municipal level. Our fountains, our decorative lighting, our firework shows, parades, Sea Fairs... For such a progressive, forward-thinking city, we do some pretty indulgent stuff, don't you think?

I'm not suggesting getting rid of all this stuff and stripping the city down to a spartan landscape of unadorned concrete. I'm just finding it very hard to take my own conservation efforts seriously when I consider that in one hour, a single Blue Angels jet will burn 1,200 gallons of JET fuel. (which is much more highly concentrated than car fuel)

Blue Angels performances last an hour, and involve 6 jets.


A single Blue Angels air show will burn up more gas than you will save in an entire lifetime of taking your bike to work.

Does that seem fair to you as you puff and sweat your way through traffic every day? And that hour of Blue Angels performance only comes after THOUSANDS of hours of training for all these pilots, all burning 1,200 gallons per hour.

More food for thought:

9,567 bulbs
If you install energy efficient bulbs all through your house and turn every light off the moment you leave the room for a year, you might save enough energy to power the Times Square New Year's ball for...5 seconds?

Follow common sustainability suggestions and install low pressure showerheads. Only flush the toilet when you take a dump. In a year you might save enough water to run the Seattle Center fountain for one minute. Although you'll need to unplug all your electronics every day for about a decade to save enough power for the fountain's pumps, lights, and sound system.

It really shoots that high
I'm not entirely sure what my point is. I'm not saying we should stop conserving, and I'm not saying the government should shut down all nonessential expenditures. I just think the disparity needs to be acknowledged, because it feels pretty silly for me to go through all the inconvenience and expense of "Going Green" when the savings my efforts create are so infinitesimal compared to the energy burned every day by all these frivolities no one's even talking about. The whole Green Movement looks like a joke when you put their "energy tips" next to the kind of massive-scale waste going unchallenged every day in every city in America.

I can't help feeling a little patronized in all this. "There you go. Good boy. Put a sweater on and turn down your thermostat. Oh, this full-size commercial airliner that flies the president wherever he needs to go? Don't worry about that. It's for grownups."


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