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For the week of February 14 through 20, 2001

Less will be more

The looming power shortage in the West is about to excuse a new wave of degradation of the regionís air, land, water and wildlife. The world around us is being offered up in the name of More.

Bad old ideas to produce more energy are coming out of the woodwork: Sulfur-spewing coal-fired power plants. Lung-choking, eye-watering diesel generators. New dams on every flowing river. Nuclear power plantsĺ even though no one has a clue what to do with the radioactive waste.

So-called experts say we must sacrifice the most precious things in the West on the altar of More. Itís hard to disagree. When the lights go out, acid rain, dead lakes, dams on every stream, extinct salmon, bad air and a little radioactivity suddenly develop great appeal.

They shouldnít. We can do better.

Demand for power isnít only a product of a growing population. Itís a product of growing consumption. Since 1982 Californiaís consumption of electricity grew 52 percent while its population grew 44 percent. Every growing state is similar, and itís easy to understand why.

The nation is prosperous. Households are filled with things that suck up electricity all day every day. Digital clocks, TVs, VCRs, CD players, computer peripheralsósome donít even have an on/off switch.

The government estimates that CD players alone consume enough energy in the United States in one year to power the Las Vegas strip for six months.

A generation ago, rooms were lighted with a couple of overhead light bulbs or lamps. Today, rooms glow with mood lighting, under-counter lighting, wall lighting. Even trees and driveways are lighted for effect.

With thought, a little effort and no pain, we can cut back energy use.

California businesses and residents beat back the threat of rolling blackouts with voluntary conservation efforts as simple as turning off excess lighting.

Before the West as we know it is destroyed in the name of More, we should look to Less for solutions.

Less will leave the Westís wild beauty intact. In Less, the nation will find that its real wealth lies in more than big bank accounts and the ability to consume limitless quantities of power.

Less surely will be more.

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