The other night when I was cooking dinner I fell into a sort of Zen mind space, observing myself doing what I did thousands of other times, but this time with a heightened consciousness.
We were “cooking out” the grass-fed ground beef I had picked up the Saturday before at our farmers market. My hubby was out back, doing the American dad grilling thing while I was inside making corn on the cob, beans, and french fries.
As I saw the water for the corn on the cob come to a boil I realized a bit late that I should have just wrapped them in foil and thrown them on the grill. “After all,” I thought, “there’s probably a lot of energy that goes into making charcoal briquettes.”
Another thought came shortly after. “There’s probably a lot of energy that goes into making tin foil, too.”
Then it struck me again what a miracle all of our automatic access to super-charged energy is. I just turn a dial, crank my stove up to high, and 8 minutes later I have boiling water. My husband just throws some charcoal on the grill, douses it with a little lighter fluid and thirty minutes later we’re ready to act out the great American cook out ritual.
It’s so damn easy.
Here today, gone tomorrow
But I was aghast.
We Americans wholly take for granted our access to cheap and abundant energy. And even as we’ve been warned by the International Energy Agency that the world hit peak oil five years ago, all of America plugs on with absolutely zero national conversation on how energy sources are decreasing, and energy prices are set to rise permanently.
I can think of a few backyard cooks and indoor gourmets who are going to find themselves pretty shocked when the energy picture changes for good and their juicy ribs, mesquite smoked salmon or Southern baked beans either can’t be made come showtime — for lack of access to ingredients —or, lacking energy cheap abundant energy, can’t easily be cooked.
We need a cultural shift
Once I had started that corn and I was marveling at the ease of my essentially instant dinner compared to what anyone in any other time period would have enjoyed, I spotted the small pan of sugar beans waiting to get heated. These were just canned beans, itself a remarkable example of compressed energy.
I had been planning to turn another dial to heat them up on a separate burner. Then it dawned on me that the boiling water for the corn was so hot that if I immersed my smaller bean pan into the corn water it would probably heat up, sort of chafing-dish style. I tried and it worked brilliantly!
Such a process of slight conservation might seem silly at first glance, at this time when we’re so absolutely mindless about our energy use other than grousing about gas prices.
But it was a reminder to me: Everything is so easy today, relatively speaking. Flip a switch get a light. Turn a key, drive anywhere you please. Click a mouse, have goods sent via mail.
When what if is not if, but when…
But imagine for a moment that the electric wires and gas lines and other fuel sources coming into your house weren’t available.
Coal is on permanent decline, and thankfully so relative to global warming.
Oil is on permanent decline and the substitutes — tar sands, deep water oil, and oil shale are horrific on the water resources we need for life itself, and so much worse for the environment than crude oil in production and refining.
As to nuclear power, need I mention the example we have at Fukushima?
I’d like for my daughters to grow up breathing fresh air, with access to clean water, and able to cook using distributed solar and wind power. I want them to be warm on cold winter nights, with tasty baked bread on their plates and a bowl full of good soup to eat. And I hope they’ll have good light sources and communications devices to stay as active as they please and connected to others.
So moms, it’s up to us to raise our voices on this. The days of flipping switches using fossil fuel inputs (most US electricity comes from coal) are in their sunset. Might we women be the leaders on the rise of clean energy?
–Lindsay Curren, Lindsay’s List