Last week I penned an article about communication, where I asserted, “When individuals on both sides of an issue realize we are not each other’s enemy, we will come together, and make some real progress.” One area where I continually hear heated arguments revolves around the environment, and how we, as individuals, can reduce our impact on our planet’s resources.
But, when I sat back and thought about how such a reduction might occur, I began to realize, I have witnessed the world on that same path for my entire life.
It is relatively easy to understand why today’s young adults may think conservation is an issue that has long been neglected. Yet at the same time, when a person living life’s fourth quarter reflects on the past, we realize it was common to use greater resources to accomplish our everyday tasks in days gone by.
When my parents moved us to California in 1954, for a year we lived in a duplex on Tujunga Avenue in North Hollywood, before moving to Sunshine Terrace in Studio City. Every home had a back-yard incinerator, and we burned trash every day.
Between burning trash, and the fuel we were using in our vehicles, our blue sky would regularly turn brown from the resulting pollution’s interaction with sunlight. After trash burning was replaced by municipal trash pickup, the implementation of vehicle and fuel improvements was accomplished, and waiting some time for the environment to heal itself, the sky turned blue again. There was an implementation cost, but the benefit was undeniable, and I have never heard anyone say they wanted the return to the days of Smoggy Skies.
Another example involves common items we use every day. Currently those same devices consume far less energy than when I was young and in school. Back then, radio and television accomplished their magic using vacuum tubes. Each individual tube had a heated filament to raise the temperature of the “cathode” and free electrons, to travel to the “plate.” Wasted energy was given off as heat. Today, “LED solid state TVs” and radios no longer use tubes and require less than one-quarter the energy of the old tube-type sets.
Later, when I moved my young family to Santa Clarita, we purchased a house built in 1961. It was only 5 years old and was constructed using all the current codes. Yet, there was no insulation in the walls, roof insulation was a slim sheet of asbestos covered in aluminum foil, and single-panel aluminum-framed windows were used. Over the years and various remodeling projects, R30 insulation has been added to the roof, every outside wall has been insulated and dual-panel windows have been installed. Each upgrade tends to keep our abode warmer in winter and cooler in summer, requiring less energy to maintain a comfortable home environment.
More recently, when my wife found she needed a knee replacement, she asked me to upgrade the bathroom toilets to “ADA compliant right height” models. In doing so, I ordered two from American Standard, and they arrived as new low-flow models. They use less than one-half the water per flush than our existing models did, and guess what, they even work better than the old ones.
Also, when saving water, a person may do it for convenience. How often do some residents turn on the hot water, and then let it run, waiting for it to get hot? There is a lot of water to be saved by installing a recirculating pump to maintain instant hot water, at times of the day when it is most needed. It is another double win, making it more convenient, while saving water, all at the same time.
Those are just a few examples, and I could have outlined many more, related to new home appliances, air conditioning and motor vehicles. I hope by now you can envision saving resources, by consuming less, does not always translate to losing our way of life, or even stagnating progress. What it does show is, while some segments of our population may see conservation as saving the planet, others see conservation as providing cost savings and convenience. The reality is, it serves both purposes. No matter which way you view the progress being made, the advances are driven by innovation and technological improvements.
Unfortunately, technology does not always advance, without having to take a step backward, from time to time. Remember Compact Fluorescent “curly” bulbs? The first time I saw them I said, they are dangerous because, “they contain mercury.” Still, they were sold as a great energy-saving device. Currently, they have fallen out of favor, and been eliminated from the stores, while LEDs, which last longer and produce much better lighting, are on the shelves. Sometimes the first solution does not always successfully fulfill the test of time.
As lights end their useful life, I have been replacing them with LEDs. They not only use less power, but also I no longer must put up with the low-level hum from fluorescent fixtures.
Therefore, the next time you discuss conservation and the environment, remember the other person is not your enemy. No matter if you are trying to save the planet, or save a few Benjamins, or even just trying to make yourself more comfortable, all of those goals are leading us in the same direction of making better use of our available resources.
Alan Ferdman is a Santa Clarita resident and a member of the Canyon Country Advisory Committee board.