Monday, October 15, 2007

I am Sprawl

Bloggers Unite - Blog Action Day
I have a confession to make.

Every semester I lecture about global warming, about the greenhouse effect, about limited rainfall and groundwater and river water.

And then I drive home.

I live ten miles from where I work, on five acres near the end of a dirt road. My landscaping consists mostly of slabs of immature Tertiary sandstone surrounded by Gambel oak and fendlerbush. I share the five acres with six mule deer, hordes of jack rabbits and cottontails, and at least one bobcat... and that's just the larger mammals. It's a beautiful spot, and I chose to live there because I like having lizards as neighbors.

But it isn't a very environmentally friendly way to live.

Every day, I drive for half an hour to my son's daycare, and then drive back through town to get to the college. In the afternoon, I reverse the route. Sometimes I stop at Wal-mart on the way home - there are few choices for buying stuff for kids, in particular, in a small town. If I want to buy many books, or DVDs, or clothes, I have to order them through a catalog or over the internet, and they arrive in the back of a UPS truck. Except for a few months of farmer's market in the summer, my vegetables come from who-knows-where, even if I buy them from the organic food store.

If I want to go to GSA, or be part of a review panel for NSF, or be trained to use our ICP, or do research with a microprobe, I have two choices. I can fly to Denver or Phoenix or Salt Lake City, and from those cities eventually get anywhere in the world. Or I can drive: four hours to Albuquerque, seven hours to Denver or Salt Lake City, two days to get to the west coast.

I am not alone. There are houses sprouting from the old ranches along my drive to work, more every day, it seems. We all want space, deer, mountains.

Maybe I will install solar panels and make use of the 300 sunny days a year. But I'll have to carve out time from the commuting and the daycare and the grading first. Right now, I need to find time to replace the broken window shades that keep the house cool in the summer and warm in the winter. I'll get around to it soon. Promise.

Maybe I'll drive into town this weekend and take care of it. It's only ten miles...


C W Magee said...

Do you at least have solar hot water? Dunno if all systems will survive a CO winter, but summer should be easy.

Kim said...

We talked about solar hot water, but a lot of our water usage is in the morning, so I'm not sure it would be very efficient.

We've got south-facing windows and thick, insulating blinds, so the house is mostly heated by the sun. (The furnace comes on in the morning, because we get up before sunrise, but we don't generally use it for the rest of the day - even in the evening, the house usually stays warm enough until bedtime.)

The local electric company has started a program to buy excess electricity from solar panels and feed it back into the grid. That seems like a good idea - one of the reasons why we didn't install solar panels when we first moved was the difficulty in storing electricity.