Friday, May 28, 2010

Nanaimo's latest "Greenhouse"

Yesterday the public was invited to see a house under construction in Nanaimo that is being built by the local chapter of the Home Builder's Association using volunteer labour and materials.

It is intended to be a platinum rated Built Green home. This program (and its predecessor, the R-2000 program) have helped to give builders the training and hands-on experience of how to improve a house's energy performance by 20 - 40% over the older homes.

A local reporter privately told me he was rather disappointed with how "green" the house was. He had overheard me ask if they were going to use waste-water heat recovery. (They aren't planning it.) Why would they not want to recover over a third of the energy invested in heating the hot water, especially when it can be done for less than $1000? A very good question.

They are also using windows that don't perform as well as a truly green building needs, and are using forced air heating. And no heat recovery ventilation. Soon this will be required in all new homes.

I know that there are real cost barriers involved in adding any of these better options, and that the purpose is to showcase some of the things they are doing (such as sealing it up well) before selling it to raise money for the home builder's headquarters in Victoria.

As electricity prices rise close to 10% per year for the foreseeable future the homeowner will be glad for what they did do, but may be disappointed that their home, for an additional $10K - $20K, could end up costing them half as much to heat and cool.

The next generation of "green" homes will do this, and even more.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Money as energy

A post I wrote a few days ago was also about money. Why again? Because our use of money is the only thing standing between a sustainable world and a destroyed world.

Money is a vehicle for both "good" and "bad." Similarly water is necessary for life, but we can also drown in it.

I have often associated money with greed, unethical business men, debt, misuse of power, consumerism, and all sorts of terrible things. And yet money is required in order to live. So, like many others, I have had a rather conflicted attitude toward it.

By thinking about money as being energy, a force that can be used well or destructively, I have been able to shift my relationship with it.

All matter is energy in various forms. The vast majority of money is digital; daily trillions of dollars of it is traded, exchanged, given away, stolen, and the like. It has a huge life force, as it can make a company successful, a family able to live well, or it can bring an entire nation to its knees.

The only difference is whether it is being used as an instrument of greed, power, selfishness, something to be afraid of, or whether it is used as an instrument of goodwill and unselfish desire. The former enslaves us; the latter frees us (and the planet).

When people ask me what the "payback period" might be for some energy upgrade, while feeling quite content to replace a carpet or kitchen (infinite payback period), it is likely that they are fearful of wasting their money. When they instead use money as an instrument for good in the world, one that pays them and the planet back, making both sustainable, then they are freeing themselves.

When I first read the sentence "Money is God in action" (Raymond Charles Barker) I balked. Yet knowing that Jesus was quoted more often about money than on any other subject, believing that God (or Spirit) is an ultimate form of energy, and realising that money used well does so much good, I am beginning to warm to this notion.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Health, safety, and energy

I have noticed that when it comes to prevention our society tends to place a lot more emphasis on safety than it does on health. This may seem surprising at first glance, given that "health care" currently uses up nearly half of all provincial budgets.

"Health care", very tragically, focuses almost totally on attempts to repair our health, not on preventing disease and injury. Even the Canadian Cancer Society invests some on cancer prevention, but the vast majority of its resources go into researching cures for cancer.

When it comes to improving the safety of such things as our highways, airports, and even some inter-city buses a great deal of effort and money is being expended. Increasingly we continue to lose rights as national governments attempt to prevent terrorism (however rather narrowly defined).

This tendency to focus on safety over health is most vividly observed when it comes to transportation, especially the private automobile. It is in our collective perception that travelling by car is safer than it is by bicycle. Stats suggest that the margin of improved safety is very slim: despite the number of cyclists who frequently break traffic laws it is only nominally more risky to be riding than it is to be driving. Motor cyclists and pedestrians are at far higher risks of injury or death.

Contrast this perceived risk for cyclists to the actual outcomes: cyclists are far more likely to be healthy, simply because we get a decent amount of exercise and more fresh air. Exercise alone leads to improved mental and physical health, lowered rates of obesity, heart disease, cancer, diabetes, depression, premature death and a lot more. Further, eliminating pollutants by cycling reduces the incidence of asthma and a few thousand deaths in Canada, every year.

Even users of public transportation are several times more likely to meet the minimum health levels than are car users.

Our dependence on the automobile is also greatly increasing the risk to the planet due to run-away climate change. For several years the Pentagon has been assessing how to minimise the resulting security risks to the United States. Note that they are assessing security risks, not health risks.

The good news is that those who "get it", those who care about their physical, mental, financial and the planetary health (all of these go hand-in-hand) are far more likely to change their lifestyles so as to minimise the use of driving and eating way less red meat, and instead get exercise, enough sleep, eat organically, laugh frequently, appreciate meaningful relationships, and all the things that make for a high quality life.

Such preventative measures improve our individual, collective and planetary health. And, as it turns out, also improve our collective safety and security!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

What is money?

One of the things I sometimes ask couples who are arguing about money is what money means to each of them.

At first they look at me rather blankly. When I give them some examples of what people believe about money they get it! And then they discover that they have different meanings about money. The penny drops.

Money means a variety of things to us: Security, freedom, responsibility, fear (of not having enough), power, and more.

When it comes to being a "business man" I have tended to avoid anything that would remind me (and others) of greed, manipulation, etc. as I do not see myself as being one to use others.

Fair enough.

Unfortunately this fear has created a relationship with money that has not served me. Instead of courageously inviting people to use their money wisely on energy-efficient products and services, I've tended to sit back and wait for them to make a decision on insufficient information.

This has not served them, me, nor the planet. As people do tend to use their money on things that are familiar and regular (e.g. coffee) most people fail to make the investment in their own energy security, comfort, and sustainability.

By holding myself back, trying to avoid looking like I'm the classic "salesman" I have essentially robbed them of the opportunity to think outside of their habits, comforts, etc., and thus to miss a vital opportunity.

I realised a couple of weeks ago that unless I attract a lot more money into my business and life I will fail to bring about the changes to the world, our home, that I passionately desire.

It is possible to be respectful and powerful at the same time. That time has come.

The planet and its people depend on it.