Will, Baby, Will: Why Energy Problems Need New Thinking, Not New Oil Wells
David Berreby is the author of "Us and Them: The Science of Identity." He has written about human behavior and other science topics for The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, Slate, Smithsonian, The New Republic, Nature, Discover, Vogue and many other publications. He has been a Visiting Scholar at the University of Paris, a Science Writing Fellow at the Marine Biological Laboratory, a resident at Yaddo, and in 2006 was awarded the Erving Goffman Award for Outstanding Scholarship for the first edition of "Us and Them." David can be found on Twitter at @davidberreby and reached by email at david [at] davidberreby [dot] com.
Providing adequate and sustainable sources of energy isn't a geophysical problem of finding supplies or a technological challenge of using sun, wind or gas more efficiently. It's a psychological problem: How to get people to think differently and behave differently. That, I think, is the lesson of this paper, published last month in the journal Environmental Science and Technology: Some 2 percent of American energy use in a year goes to make food that no one eats, it reports. Eliminating that waste would yield more energy than the country gets from all its offshore oil and gas wells, current and projected.
Given that about a quarter of food produced in the United States goes to waste, write Amanda D. Cuéllar and Michael E. Webber of the University of Texas at Austin, they were able to estimate how much energy annually is "embedded in wasted food." It's a lot: More than 2000 trillion BTUs every year.
Addressing food waste would have other benefits, as Rachel Cernansky points out: The average American family loses $600 a year on food it doesn't consume. Then, too, the Natural Resources Defense Council has reported that cutting food waste would also help lower greenhouse gas emissions without in any way reducing anyone's quality of life.
Recapturing that lost power, Cuéllar and Webber note, won't be a matter of getting everyone to order fewer fries and clean their plates. It will require a "retooling of the food supply chain to ensure that the energy consumed during food production does in fact decrease with a decrease in food waste." That will take a lot of work. But the first step, obviously, is to stop focussing on supply and think seriously about all we have to gain by reducing demand.
Cuéllar, A., & Webber, M. (2010). Wasted Food, Wasted Energy: The Embedded Energy in Food Waste in the United States Environmental Science & Technology DOI: 10.1021/es100310d
Progressive America would be half as big, but twice as populated as its conservative twin.
- America's two political tribes have consolidated into 'red' and 'blue' nations, with seemingly irreconcilable differences.
- Perhaps the best way to stop the infighting is to go for a divorce and give the two nations a country each
- Based on the UN's partition plan for Israel/Palestine, this proposal provides territorial contiguity and sea access to both 'red' and 'blue' America
We know the dangers of too little sleep. Now for the other side of the story.
- Western University researchers found that sleeping over eight hours per night results in cognitive decline.
- Oversleepers suffer similar difficulties on certain cognitive tests as those who sleep under seven hours.
- Not all the news is bad: One night of oversleeping results in a cognitive boost.
The ability to speak clearly, succinctly, and powerfully is easier than you think
The ability to communicate effectively can make or break a person's assessment of your intelligence, competence, and authenticity.
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