Due to the rapid expansion of technology, we’ve "successfully” been able to distance ourselves from the earth.
As a result of leaving the land, we have become disconnected from the very ground, air, and water sources that nurture us. To most of us Thanksgiving Day has become yet another holiday, not much different from, say, Canada Day or Boxing Day.
Not so many years ago our hard working ancestors, most of whom lived or worked on farms, likely felt very good about the produce they were able to put on their tables, provisions that they had grown themselves. Those of us who have food gardens will be able to appreciate some of this, even if presently our very lives don’t depend on what gets harvested!
Technology has also made it very easy for us to light and heat our homes and drive our vehicles around town. Here again, we are largely disconnected and unaware of the enormity and the vast sums of energy it takes to enjoy our life of relative leisure.
In the next decade, as more food gets used to fuel our vehicles (biofuels, ethanol, biodiesel) and as oil and water become more scarce, the price for both food and fuel will rapidly rise. Many more of us may find ourselves returning to the earth so as to provide more of our own food and energy. This may prove to be a good thing, even if it comes at the cost of watching less T.V. and reducing our lifestyle expectations.
Despite the strong drive by the fossil fuel and nuclear industries, we are beginning to waken to the idea of harvesting more of the free energy that comes from the sun and moon. The concept is old, although some of the technologies are new. Our ancestors grew and harvested crops with the aid of natural fertilisers, windmills to grind grain and pump water, solar drying of fruits, and many more simple, yet still useful technologies.
Today, emerging technologies are enabling us to more fully ‘harvest’ the ultimate source of life on our planet: the sun. Solar hot-water heaters very efficiently capture the sun’s rays and turn them into very usable hot water (our home’s #1 energy user in this part of the world). Now, more thermally efficient windows better retain the home’s energy (whether heating or cooling), while allowing in an appropriate amount of the sun’s light and heat.
Other ‘passive’ (read "free”) energy devices will one day become common. Yet let’s not forget the lowly, but highly efficient, clothes line! The smell of those freshly dried clothes cannot be duplicated by any human-made imitation!
The newest technologies that will one day provide most of the power to our homes (and cars?) here on Vancouver Island are just now beginning to be available. Wave energy generators will soon be surfing the west coast waves, and the Island’s second tidal power generator is now being tested. Clean energy, with no unsightly towers (other than those to carry the power to market), will be competing against dirty coal and polluting natural gas power stations.
Such developments will be a part of what we leave to our children. Something, indeed, to be thankful for!
Perhaps when we have managed the transition, painful as it may be, we will once again be grateful for the abundance the earth, sun, and eventually the moon give to us and all the critters that share this planetary earth-ship called "home” and be truly thankful when we gather our friends and significant others together each Thanksgiving Day.
Ian Gartshore is the President of Energy Solutions for Vancouver Island (www.esvi.ca) and an energy consultant with Shore Energy Solutions, Ltd. (www.shoreenergy.ca).