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Don't get old; get active

Posted by BJ Roche  November 29, 2011 05:13 PM

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Where would we be without Mehmet Oz? In this month's AARP magazine, he's got a piece called "24 Hours to a Longer Life." It's a day that begins with yoga, ends with lights out at 10 p.m., and includes a few hits of astragalus at 3:30 p.m. Hey, I can do that.

Go figure: the world is going to hell, and baby boomers will read, pay or do anything to stay in it just a leeeettle bit longer.

What if we transferred a little of that energy into preserving the place for our grandchildren and their kids? After all, when was the last time you said to yourself, "Hmmm, wonder how wonderful it's going to be around here in 2050"?

I was feeling bad about it awhile back, and I accepted a request to join my town's Energy Committee. It feels good to actually be doing something. (And I'm not even doing that much. Our committee, like most other municipal committees, relies heavily on the hard work of a volunteer who is passionate about this issue and treats it like a part-time job. God bless those people.)

Energy use and climate change are issues that seem intractable. There's actually a lot at stake in Massachusetts.

But once you get into it, you see that there are actually a lot of small steps everywhere that can make a difference, and there are a lot of interesting developments in conservation and renewables, particularly in Massachusetts.

I was struck last year by this article in the New York Times about the National Strategic Narrative developed by a couple of military guys. They think that we need to redefine national security from a focus on dominance to one of sustainability. They found:

“Poorly fitted air-conditioners cost New York City 130 to 180 million dollars a year in extra energy consumption,” one of the strategists, Capt. Wayne Porter of the Navy, said Tuesday. “They generate 370,525 extra tons of carbon dioxide.”

Suppose, he says, you fixed them. And then you got the 40 states that waste the most electricity to match the 10 most efficient. The likely benefits are no surprise — less foreign oil, cost savings, job creation, decreased pollution.

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts has made energy activism easier and with its Green Communities program. To become part of the program, cities and towns must meet five criteria, including establishing a baseline for energy use in the community, passage of a more energy-efficient building code, and a commitment to reduce energy use in town facilities.

It's not a simple process, and it will probably generate discussion in your community about everything from home rule to industrial wind power to whether climate change is a hoax. But hey, it's New England, let's argue!

And once the process is completed, the community has a full picture of what's being spent on what types of energy, and where the potential is for savings. Qualified towns become eligible for funding for projects that can increase energy efficiency. This saves money for towns, and ultimately helps everyone by saving tax dollars.

More than 70 towns have joined the program, and they're doing some interesting things with their funding.

Partly as a result of the Green Communities program, Massachusetts jumped to the top of the state rankings by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, surpassing, even, yes, California.

So if you've been wringing your age-spotted hands about the state of the world, rub a little Strivectin on them, down a few Chinese herbs, dial up your Town Hall, and get involved. Who knows; it may keep you young.

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About the author

BJ Roche is a writer and teacher who lives in Western Massachusetts. She’s a senior lecturer in the Journalism Program at UMass Amherst, where she teaches writing, new media and More »

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