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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.


Ask the Experts: Submit Your Permaculture Questions Now

Attention all growers, food-lovers, and green-living enthusiasts, we are once again celebrating Permaculture Month by putting our pioneering permaculture authors to work for you. Chelsea Green is proud to publish and distribute some of the most recognized, and award-winning, names in permaculture, and we’re making several of them available to our readers to answer any and […] Read More

Recipe: Pascal Baudar’s Basic Wild Kimchi

Experiment with what you have, anything from the mustard family will work extremely well. Read More

Author Elizabeth Marshall Thomas: Dreaming of Lions

Reading through your life story, it’s clear that you were amazingly open to new experiences, approaching them like an observer who arrived with few previously held ideas. Do you think that it takes that kind of openness to see and understand animals and people in new ways, as you’ve done throughout your career? I do, […] Read More

Author Petra Kuenkel: The Art of Leading Collectively

More than ever before, there is a focus on new, collective forms of leadership—and an urgency to get collective change processes underway, all over the world. What’s behind the recent push to move collective leadership to the fore? Whether we find ourselves in societal or organizational change, it requires collective energy and drive to bring […] Read More

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
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