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It's sad to see the end of Michael Potts' 3-part interview series, but fortunately, the author and director of the Caspar Institute is working on a new book revision, "The Evolving Independent Home." Portions of his book, "The New Independent Home," can also be viewed on the Solar Utilities Network website.
To close off his interview, Potts describes "sustainable hedonism." According to Potts, "chocolate, coffee, lettuce, skiing in December, cozy homes, and safe transport" all comprise hedonistic pleasures. Without calling for an end to these pleasures, Potts encourages making them sustainable. In this manner, they are pleasures our children will also have the privilege of enjoying.
Potts believes the U.S. can remain a world leader, only if we learn to
"thrive on solar income, eliminate waste, and encourage diversity."
Homeowners who install solar panels on their homes are among those reclaiming independence. Here's more on what Potts had to say:
Can you describe the concept of "sustainable hedonism" and how it can be applied in conscious day-to-day living?
Let me start with an image: Jimmy Carter on TV wearing a cardigan and telling us he's turned down the thermostats in the White House. OPEC is holding America hostage and, kindly Jimmy tells us, it's time for us to suck it up and make do with less.
He was probably right, but his message was upside down. As I've suggested, we Americans systematically waste something like 75% of the energy we use ... and that's just un-American! We're a thrifty, independent lot, and so our latter-day dependency of multi-nationals and energy sources in Faroffistan is a huge strategic weakness. We do need to toughen up.
But we don't have to give up a single essential good in our lifestyle; all we need to do is increase our efficiencies -- a word much over-used, I see, in my answers. In 21st Century America, efficiency seems almost a dirty word. We define ourselves, it seems, by our heedless ability to abuse resources and over-consume. If we could connect our forefathers to generators, the spinning they're doing in their graves might help. For me and for many, wastefulness for the sake of a booming economy is simply a wrong path...
...but we don't want to give up our chocolate, coffee, lettuce and skiing in December, cozy homes, and safe transport. Each of these is a luxury, a hedonistic pleasure, and the first step in making them sustainable is recognizing this, and being reasonable about it. The world doesn't owe us our lifestyle and, when we rub its nose in our over-consumptive behavior, the world tends to resent us. Signals as disparate as 9-11 and the falling dollar should give us a clue.
Some of our self-indulgences simply cannot be justified or supported, but for every one, there's a less intense replacement, like Jimmy's cardigan instead of 72 degrees on the thermostat. A Prius is more fun to drive than an Escalade. Cross country skiing is better exercise than downhill, and at a tenth the energy cost. Hiking is a better way to get into nature than an ATV or snowmobile. The energy signals are pinching us, and a little attention to where they pinch, plus some imagination about how to adapt our pleasures to make them more sustainable, allows us to refine our luxuries to the point where our children may be able to enjoy them, too.
I can't bring myself to think that we Americans really have a love affair with internal combustion. It's beneath us. But in a world that could say "What's Good for General Motors is Good for America" -- a world that is thankfully receding in the rear view mirror of history ("Warning: Objects in Mirror are Closer than They Appear") -- our behaviors and choices haven't been our own. For a century, we've been creatures of advertising, not humans so much as consumers, and the folks who put solar panels on their homes are reclaiming their independence. 20th Century Americans led the world in wastefulness, but in the 21st Century, if we're to remain world leaders, it will because we learn to thrive on current solar income, eliminate waste, and encourage diversity.
The sixth and final question is open-ended. Essentially, do you have anything else to add to the interview that might not have otherwise been covered by the previous questions?
Here in Caspar, we're just emerging from a five-year renovation project to take the 1970s era home I built on a shoestring budget -- a top-to-toe energy upgrade that saw new thermal mass added below and the roof ripped off and entirely reoriented, far beyond something a normal, sane homesteader would undertake. In 1970, who would have thought that pointing the roof squarely at the sun, not parallel to the street, would be significant? I can't wait to be done, first, because the new "yacht" will be so comfortable, and will rest so lightly on the land, but second, because I'm ready for a thorough revision of my book. This time, "The Evolving Independent Home" because one thing we've learned is that while our primary energy source comes up every morning, the ways we have to harvest its bounty reach far back into history -- hydronic floor instead of hypocaust; correct orientation and shading (as opposed to "curb appeal") are as important as they were for cave dwellers -- but also include the latest breakthroughs -- in refrigeration, transportation, entertainment, and even cardigans!
And thank you for asking.
--Thank you, Michael, for taking the time to speak with us.DISCLAIMER: Views contained herein this interview are not necessarily views of CalFinder
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