If you haven’t met me, or read the About Us page yet, I (Kate) am a graduate student at Colorado State University, working on my Phd in Atmospheric Sciences. More specifically, I’m doing research into the methods used to include the effects of clouds in climate models, and hoping to improve our ability to forecast weather, climate and future climate change.
Working in an academic environment, full of atmospheric scientists, has been a truly wonderful experience, and one thing we all end up talking about is our impact on the very thing we have devoted our lives to studying. Topics of conversations around our “water coolers” invariably end up returning back to ways to conserve energy and reduce our carbon footprints.
In Fort Collins, our carbon comes from the same general mix as the rest of the country. Electricity production and transportation are the two biggest sources, with electricity beating transportation by a measurable, but relatively small, chunk. This EIA report has great statistics all the way through the end of 2007. In Fort Collins, most of our electricity is generated by the Rawhide power plant, just north of town, which has improved emissions greatly in the last few years, but still helps Colorado into the “dirty” category on some carbon monitoring sites.
On Saturday night, between 8:30 and 9:30p, we participated in Earth Hour, by turning out our lights. While I know this really won’t reduce carbon emissions in the grand scheme of things, Mark and I decided to add our lights out to the rest as part of the “movement.”
It didn’t really look like a movement from where we were. Most of our neighbors were out for the night, so their lights were off anyway. Those that were home stayed on. I didn’t see any grand gestures or amazing splotches of darkness.
I think there’s more than one ethical question to be had about “lights out.” Most of our per-capita carbon in the US comes from power going to industrial and municipal sources. Office buildings with lights and computers on all night, towns with lights on parking lots 24/7. But this isn’t necessarily a “waste” of energy as many people suggest. It is a safety issue. My dad often talks about New York and other cities turning off the lights to save energy in the 70’s, and the huge spike in crime and murder that followed.
So, in my mind, turning off the lights might be a nice thing for the environment, but I do recognize the reasons we keep them on so often as well.
But for our Earth Hour, I took the chance to happily unplug from the world. I took a wonderful long bath, and then fell asleep at 9p. The lights didn’t come back on in our house on Saturday.