The Bottom Line on the New Energy Economy
Coming Down to the Ground
We're Coming Down ... to the Ground
Wall-E by Pixar Animation Studios, Walt Disney Pictures
Coming Back to What We Forgot

June 3, 2009
by Craig Severance

I saw Wall-E again this week, and was struck once more by the message of the film -- regardless of how advanced we are, we can make terrible choices if we forget where we came from.

If you are one of the few hundred people who have not yet seen this amazing film, rent it, buy it -- see it now.  If you've already seen it, it's worth seeing again.  It's basically a fun family film, but much more.

The film presents a vision of a future where humans have completely destroyed the planet, and have parked in space on giant cruise ships while robots (such as Wall-E) are left behind to clean up the mess. 

As we are now actually facing the prospect we may soon cause massive desertification of now productive farmland, acidification of the oceans, and mass extinctions of up to half the species on the planet, this vision seems eerily close to reality.

Walt Disney Pictures

Stupid People?  The humans in Wall-E were not stupid in the traditional sense.  They were very smart, having developed technology to provide everyone with the comforts of life in a society powered by highly automated systems. 

Walt Disney Pictures

As we race to oblivion ourselves, we too are occupied with technologies to entertain us and provide comforts on our ride over the cliff.  (If you think you are not tied into this, try going a week without your cell phone, television, and internet.) 

Forgetting Simple Things.  The advanced technologies we use are not the problem, so much as the simple things we have forgotten.  We know how to program our I-phones, but don't know how to caulk around a windowsill.  We have enough time to spend hours a day on the internet, but not to grow a vegetable garden. 

We've become so accustomed to the advanced state of our technology, many of us automatically assume it will require advanced and expensive technologies to solve our energy problems. 

For instance, we may assume it will require advanced more efficient air conditioners (perhaps geothermal) to drastically cut our cooling energy use -- instead of shade trees, awnings, and overhangs to keep the sun out of our buildings in the first place.

We may assume it will require a $40,000 solar electric system to drastically cut our electric bills.  While this may work fine if you have the money, do you have a clothes line? (For those of you less than 50: you can use one of these to dry your clothes, without a dryer.)

In other words, like the very technologically advanced people in Wall-E, we've forgotten how to take care of ourselves. 

In a world facing resource shortages, will it even be possible to expend massive amounts of resources to solve these problems?  In other words, will we really be able to "buy" our way out of this if we're rapidly going broke?   

I will be writing more articles in the coming weeks and months about many of these simple things.  We'll start with how to stay cool in the summer -- which is actually quite easy.

We just need not to forget a few simple things.

This article was originally published on June 3, 2009.
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