The theme of this year’s Pop!Tech is scarcity and abundance. (It’s being streamed live right now.) Andrew Zolli, speaking in front of a slide with a brightly lit grocery store juxtaposed next to a refugee camp in South Asia, reminds us that we have such an abundance of goods that Chris Anderson argues that $0.00 Is the Future of Business. On the other hand, the headlines of every major newspaper in the country reveal the collective anxiety about the fact that we’re headed from an era of abundance to an era of scarcity.
There is also immense opportunity in this global downscaling. As we sell off our SUV’s and 5-bedroom homes, we can start to think about how to live more sustainably (and with less credit card debt).
That is where the next speaker, Saul Griffith, comes in. In 2007 Saul quantified every single watt of his energy consumption: every mile he drove in his hybrid car; all the energy consumption that goes into his diet (one of the best, perhaps the only, reason to become a vegetarian or vegan); every flight he took; every lightbulb in his two-bedroom house.
Interestingly, the largest slice of his energy consumption pie is just paying taxes. (Which pays teachers, funds highways, and ships lots of soldiers to places like Iraq, Afghanistan, and Korea.)
In the end Saul ended up using 17,798 watts in 2007. I know that because Saul helped build a website called Wattzon that tracks and categorizes energy consumption. You could log in today, create your energy consumption profile, and compare it to others. Wattzon is the latest entry into a quickly expanding toolkit of ways to visualize our energy consumption.
Currently we only visualize our energy consumption when paying for gas at the pump and paying our gas bill at the end of the month. While Wattzon is a great start to building a profile of our individual energy consumption, what we really need is something that follows the FireEagle model and aggregates our energy consumption data from GPS tracking on our mobile phone, computers which are built into our cars, Dopplr.com’s carbon calculator, and our monthly energy bill.
Saul argues that economic recessions are the best thing that can happen to the environment. The only times that US energy consumption has actually decreased is during the great depression, the 70’s oil crisis, and the early 1990’s recession. His concern now, however, is that the current economic recession will lead to lower oil prices and a lack of investment in renewable energy technologies, which today we need more than anything else.