Let's Talk About the 'C' Word

A pile of trash. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons user Fun4life.nl.)Of all the solutions to climate change, dwindling resources and a degraded natural environment, one consistently seems to have all the appeal of a dirty word.

It’s the “c” word. As in “conservation.”

Now, I appreciate all the diligent researchers and inventors working so hard to create the ultimate “green” bullet, whether it’s a never-exhausting source of clean energy, cheap and printable solar panels you can put anywhere, energy from garbage or carbon-dioxide-based plastics. But unless one of these near-magic solutions can enter the mass market in the next couple of years, we’re not going to make an appreciable dent in our resource and energy demands before the proverbial dirty word starts hitting the fan.

And that’s why conservation needs to become a much bigger part of the global environment discussion, and soon. Because that’s the one strategy that can start having a meaningful impact immediately. Not in five years. Not next year. Not even tomorrow. Now.

The recent blowback from the rush to biofuels is a perfect example of what I’m talking about. As reported in a story on National Public Radio, European Union scientists have checked the latest numbers on biofuels and have concluded that growing energy is not the way to go. They’re calling for an immediate halt in the EU’s crop-to-energy battle plan.

That’s not what a lot of politicians want to be hearing, though. For instance, when anti-biofuel protesters confronted one European official in the NPR report, he responded petulantly, “What’s your solution?”

Another protester had an eloquent response: “We have to start using less energy now,” he said.

Conservation. Let’s start seeing some multi-billion-dollar government subsidies for that.

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