Have we made progress? Yes, in many ways.
Have matters become even more critical? Yes, sadly, in many more ways. http://www.earthday.org/earth-day-history-movement
Here's a 2 pronged approach I plan to take today:
*How much can we reduce our fossil fuel footprint?
Architect Chris Benedict http://www.meetup.com/GreenNewYorkers/photos/4077822/ recommends reducing our home energy use to the Passive House standard. She states that this drastic reduction is needed in order for renewable sources of energy to be sufficient for our needs.
Today we have the opportunity to tour a Brooklyn brownstone retrofitted by architect Jeremy Shannon to the PH standard. http://www.meetup.com/GreenNewYorkers/events/61492462/
How a strong a message can we send to political and business leaders?
Today we can join the "Rally to Retake Earth Day" http://www.meetup.com/GreenNewYorkers/events/61613292/
Greenies, what are your plans for today?
*Oops, I didn't mean to give an impression that I thought it would be easy or cost effective to retrofit all of our homes to the PH standard in the near future.
It is a long term goal that I think we must start working towards ASAP. Plus, applying the principles PH is based on can reduce our fossil fuel needs within our existing infrastructure.
Summer: Keep the Western window shades closed all day, keep the Eastern window shades closed in the mornings. Use ceiling fans instead of air conditioners. On cool nights that aren't muggy, bring the cool air inside with fans. Don't use the oven on hot days.
Winter: Let the Sun in from the West and South! Add insulation to the North windows. Look for and seal up air leaks in windows and doors. Open windows for ventilation when the sun is shining.
In a small home less fuel is needed for the smaller space. In a larger home establishing a seasonal pattern of use is helpful. A tiled basement family room is a cool sanctuary in Summer and the West facing den is the place to read a book in Winter. Spaces we aren't using don't need to be heated or cooled to the max.
Think of what cats do to be comfortable. Yes, cats are energy experts ;-)
On a hot Summer day this kitty
stayed in the middle of the house and stretched out on the vinyl kitchen floor.
On a cold but sunny Winter afternoon
she curled up in the armchair by a Western window.
How much difference can small low cost DIY measures make? In my own home, the average daily gas use went down from a max of 6 therms in the Winter of 2004 to only 2.5 therms in the Winter of 2009. In January of 2010, the furnace (1965 vintage) and hot water heater (2002 vintage) were replaced which brought the average daily gas use to below 2 therms in the Winter and to .5 therm in the summer. Electricity use is about 5 KWH per day at the Summer max. I don't have any air conditioners. In short, it's entirely possible to make some progress towards fossil fuel independence without costly investments.
There's no time to lose. Let's change our energy habits ASAP!