Michael Moore’s SiCKO opens today. Run don’t walk. And let us know what you think.


Emerson Schwartzkopf: ‘Cutting out a power conditioner is OK if you have a weekend house and the most important electronic devices might be a TV and DVD player. For people using their computers at home on a regular basis, having that conditioner in areas of less-than-standard electrical service isn’t really an option. Prolonged variation of the voltage can take a toll on equipment. And it’s not only a rural problem. I once spent an enlightening afternoon watching a multimeter reading of a previous home’s outlets. I reported the data to the local power company, which then tested area power lines and spent a few days replacing transmission equipment that one workman described as, ‘just about completely fried.’ Also, be aware that not all powerstrips are created equal when it comes to protecting any electronic equipment. I’ve had personal experience with strips that claimed excellent ‘surge protection’ and failed on the job. To get strips that actually work, you really need to step up in quality from the usual discount-store variety; several companies that make uninterruptable power supplies (UPSs) also make some pretty tough powerstrips. I’d never operate my desktop computer without a UPS, incidentally, even though it does consume more power than using a plain powerstrip. The energy cost to replace a fried computer in materials, manufacturing, transportation, etc. (not to mention the human power drain on my sanity), is far greater than the daily consumption of that little box that protects my equipment and my ability to do business.’


No, Mr. Smarty Pants, it’s the water that’s boiling. Which brings us to:

David D.: ‘Alison refers to ‘The tankless hot water heater we bought was from Seisco.’ My question – why is a ‘hot’ water heater needed at all? I mean . . . if the water is hot already, why heat it?’


Dave: ‘Everyone could conserve more. Despite the fact that I count myself as a conservationist, I too, have two homes. A smallish primary residence (1800 sqf, exactly at the median $ for our metro community), and a very small (700 sqf) second home. Yes, I could consume less, but I think there is more to life than that. So, we (and Alison) are doing what we can while still enjoying this too-short time we have. I, for example, just went solar on my (small) boat, I bought an electric lawn mower (savings that really surprised me, I should post more details separately on that alone), and we always take the most fuel efficient vehicle for the trip (the van when the whole family makes the trip, the car when we can fit in it). Not much, but as you say, I’m making an effort.’


Bill: ‘I remember you being on the board of Zero Population Growth . . . are you still? You may be interested in this article. All the things I remember you saying in the past are here. How can one go about getting involved in ZPG?’

The statistics are quite remarkable. For most of the two million years of human history, the population was less than a quarter of a million. The advent of agriculture led to a sustained increase, but it took thousands of years, until 1800, before the planet was host to a billion humans. Since then growth has accelerated – we hit 2 billion in 1930 . . . 4 billion in 1975 . . . 6 billion in 1999. Today’s grand total is estimated to be 6.5 billion, with a growth rate of 80 million each year.

☞ ZPG is now called the Population Connection, and although I’m long gone from the board, it’s definitely worth your consideration. We may well learn to sustain tens of billions of people on our planet and beyond – someday. But can we get to someday? Right now, we seem to be fouling our nest faster than we’re learning to clean it up. Not only have we added 4 billion people to the planet since I was born – which is a lot more people to fit into the one and only Yellowstone National Park or to visit the one and only Leaning Tower of Pisa (I put them on a par. It LEANS!) – we have also seen their consumption per capita soar, not to mention their toxic and nonbiodegradeable waste. And the fish are fewer (and more mercury laden) and the bee population has fallen off a cliff. Our lightbulbs should be CFLs and our next vehicle should get dramatically more mileage than our last.


Stewart Dean: ‘You say, ‘Don’t rule out technological advances that lead to abundant clean energy . . . that in turn makes possible unheard of sustainable prosperity. It’s just that ‘getting from here to there,’ in the meantime, could be a bit of a problem.’ A new Fact of Reality, ranking with There is No Such Thing As a Free Lunch, that everyone needs to realize is that even if there were free energy, we would cook the planet in short order. Using energy ends up generating heat…which then builds up. One of the most direct learning experiences for me has been in the server room for my small college: I learned that you have to pay for energy twice. Once when you supply it to the computer, the second time after the electricity has electricked and is now heat….and you have to pay (the second time) for the air conditioning to remove it. More computers = more heat = more air conditioning. It doesn’t matter whether you use electricity for computing or making toast; It Ends Up As Heat. A computer uses 100 watt, a toaster 1000, but 10 PCs throw off the same amount as a toaster…and they run constantly. So. You have free energy… you’re still heating up the planet. It’s like having a house, but no way to remove the garbage.’

☞ Fireflies. Cold light. Cold fusion. Sang-froid. You just never know. But I take your point.


Stewart Dean: ‘CFLs in bedlamps are a bad idea. For whatever reason, activity in and around the bed can be physical, wild and unconsidered. I first encountered this when my 14 year old jumped me when I was lying down. That was 5 years ago and I had pieces of glass from the reflector incandescent in the bed. I did NOT go to a CFL since they are even more fragile and they have mercury as well as glass in their makeup. Instead, I have LED ‘light bulbs’ in the headboard clip lights. They are much more durable and just about impossible to break.’

☞ This is crazy talk. Beds are for sleeping, the most restful place in the house. (And from their heft, I would think the CFL glass is actually thicker than that of the incandescents, but now I’m way out of my depth.)


Michael Moore’s SiCKO opens today. Run don’t walk. And let us know what you think.


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