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Conserve Here, Conserve Now: A Lesson from Juneau

On Friday morning, NPR’s All Things Considered revisited the city of Juneau, Alaska two months after a series of avalanches destroyed the city’s main power line. Alaska Electric Light and Power, the only power utility in the state, had to scramble to meet the city’s energy demands with diesel-powered generators. Overnight, the price of electricity shot up 400–500%. The response was immediate. Anticipating the massive sticker shock of that first electricity bill, the good people of Juneau didn’t wait around for the next generation of LED lightbulbs or the rollout of the long-awaited (and probably over-hyped) Chevy Volt. Those hardy—and surprisingly resilient—Alaskan folk took matters into their own hands. The city dimmed or shut off street lights. The International Airport left its runway lights off except when a plane was taking off or landing. People switched from electric to wood stoves, turned down their thermostats, and bundled up indoors. They started doing dishes by hand, with cold water, and hanging laundry to dry on clotheslines. They turned the lights on only when desperately necessary. The citizens of Juneau were able to collectively cut their power consumption by nearly a third in one week, and maintain that level for the next six weeks. And although many predicted that Juneauites would resume their pre-crisis levels of electricity consumption once the plant was back up and running, two months out they’ve been able to maintain a level 10% below last summer’s levels (this in spite of an especially cold and wet summer). So what should we take away from this story? Two things:
  • Americans can and are willing to quickly and drastically change their behavior, given the right incentive—namely, a sucker-punch to the wallet.
  • We don’t have to wait around for radical new technological advances or government intervention—we, as individuals and communities, can do what it takes to lower our consumption of fossil fuels. Today. Right now.
Listen to the whole story here.


10 Books to Curl Up With This Winter

William Wordsworth was right when he said, “Nature never did betray the heart that loved her.” Nevertheless, the cold, dark days of winter can still get the best of even Nature’s most tenderhearted admirer. What’s one to do? We here at Chelsea Green have concocted the perfect cabin fever remedy with our suggested winter reading […] Read More..

50 Low-Cost, Low-Tech Solutions to Save the Planet

Tired of watching people spend so much time thinking up big solutions to big problems that it has a paralyzing effect on taking action? If you’re like author Courtney White, the answer is yes. That’s why in Two Percent Solutions for the Planet, he takes readers on a journey to show how low-cost, easy-to-implement solutions […] Read More..

Beyond the War on Invasive Species – Review in Permaculture Design Magazine

This review was originally published in Permaculture Design, Issue #97, “Life on the Edge,” Fall 2015; www.PermacultureDesignMagazine.com Look in the Mirror Review by Peter Bane For its extensive scholarship, clear voice, and impassioned, hopeful message, this book is a joy to read—a slim but beautifully written teaching text which uses permaculture and ecosystem science as a lens for viewing the […] Read More..

5 Common Invasive Species and How to Manage Them

Last week, we asked authors Tao Orion and Katrina Blair to share alternative approaches to managing five different plant species commonly held to be “invasive.” St. John’s Wort, Garlic Mustard, Thistle, Oxeye Daisy, and Kudzu are often dismissed as annoyances at best and the target of aggressive eradication with harmful chemicals at worst. Orion and […] Read More..

What in the World is a Pawpaw?

Have you heard of the pawpaw? A few generations ago, most would say “yes!” You could ask just about anyone and they could tell you what this fruit looked and tasted like, and more importantly, where to find it. But today, the pawpaw remains a mystery to some and entirely unknown to others. In Pawpaw: […] Read More..
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