The Wrong Way To Encourage People To “Live Green” . . .

. . . is using the example of being forced to set your thermostat at 60 as “a teachable moment”:

Conservationists swoon at the possibility of it all. Here in Alaska, where melting arctic ice and eroding coastlines have made global warming an urgent threat, this little city has cut its electricity use by more than 30 percent in a matter of weeks, instantly establishing itself as a role model for how to go green, and fast.

Comfort has been recalibrated. The public sauna has been closed and the lights have been dimmed at the indoor community pool. At the library, one of the two elevators was shut down after someone figured out it cost 20 cents for each round trip. The thermostat at the convention center was dialed down eight degrees, to 60. The marquee outside is dark.

Schoolchildren sacrifice Nintendo time and boast at show-and-tell of kilowatts saved. Hotels consult safety regulations to be sure they have not unscrewed too many light bulbs in the hallways. On a recent weekday, all but one of the dozens of television screens on display at the big Fred Meyer store were black — off, that is.

Yet even as they embrace a fluorescent future, the 31,000 residents of Juneau, the state capital, are not necessarily doing it for the greater good. They face a more local inconvenient truth. Electricity rates rocketed about 400 percent after an avalanche on April 16 destroyed several major transmission towers that delivered more than 80 percent of the city’s power from a hydroelectric dam about 40 miles south.

“People are suddenly interested in talking about their water heaters,” said Maria Gladziszewski, who handles special projects for the city manager’s office. “As they say, it’s a teachable moment.”

Life in modern times is better than any other time in history because we have electricity to do these things. If that’s what conservationists “swoon” at then, sorry, I’m not there with them. Let the kids play Nintendo — it’s better than sitting in a dark, cold room in Juneau.

Please, tell me this doesn’t sound like one of the establishing shots in “Children of Men”:

With the first bills based on the increased rate scheduled to be sent out this week, fear is in the air. So is the laundry. Dryers eat up watts, and local stores ran out of clothespins because so many people started hanging their laundry outside. Never mind that it rains 220 days of the year and rarely gets truly warm here amid the fjords and forests of the Inside Passage.

“It takes about two days to get them dry,” Linda Augustine, 66, an elementary school teacher, said as she used plastic clothes hangers to dry blue jeans and T-shirts under the awning on the back porch of her mobile home. “And I don’t iron my clothes now. You massage them to get the wrinkles out while they’re still on the hanger.”

Meeting the energy challenge of the 21st century!

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