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Earth Day Encourages Energy Diet

by Margot Higgins
Environmental News Network, April 16, 2001

Let Earth Day be a reminder to save energy every day. Riding a bike is one way. In the United States, the official theme of Earth Day 200l on April 22 comes as no surprise. Energy conservation is high on the priority list of environmental groups, and clean energy has been selected as the chief campaign agenda item of the Earth Day Network , a nonprofit group that is coordinating Earth Day activities around the world.

Many environmentalists say energy consumption is second only to population growth on their list of environmental concerns.

"Most of the world's environmental problems are tied to energy," explains Evelyn Guerra, a spokesperson for the Earth Day Network. "Pollution, global warming nuclear waste, endangered species and human health are al linked to energy."

With a looming energy crisis in the United States, pulling the plug on energy use may be the most obvious way to demonstrate concern for the environment. But for some Earth Day organizers, the idea is nothing new.

For the past 10 years grass-roots activist Jeff Softley has organized the Earth Day Energy Fast to encourage Americans to eliminate or curb their energy use.

"The media today relegates coverage of Earth Day to the lifestyle sections of its coverage," Softley said, "and Earth Day's focus over time seems to have shifted to an entertainment-oriented profile. If you ask the average person what's going on for Earth Day, they are likely to answer, 'Who's playing?'"

The Energy Fast is easily incorporated into other Earth Day plans, Softley suggests. Musicians can play acoustic instruments or use solar-powered amplifiers. Food vendors can rely on solar cookers. Bicycle use can be promoted. Educational demonstrations can focus on energy-audits, high-efficiency heating, cooling and lighting, solar and renewable resources, and mass transit.

Pulling the plug on energy use may be the most obvious way to demonstrate concern for the environment. At home you can put your lifestyle on an energy diet by carpooling to work, using natural light and heat, preparing food without appliances and trading television time for a walk outdoors. The Earth Day Energy Fast web site and , recently launched by the Center for Neighborhood Technology, offer many additional energy saving tips and links.

Despite a growing need for renewable sources such as wind, solar power and geothermal energy, fossil fuels continue to power cars, homes and industries because they are cheap, plentiful and readily available, conservation groups say.

Softley notes that human energy use is responsible for 80 percent of all air pollution and 88 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions. The United States wastes more energy than most nations use for all of their energy needs, he notes. While the United States constitutes only 5 percent of Earth's population, Americans consume more than 25 percent of the world's energy and create between 25 and 30 percent of the greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming.

These trends are expected to get worse under the Bush administration.

President Bush's fiscal year 2002 budget request for the Department of Energy includes a $277 million cut in funding for essential (and successful) renewable energy programs, conservation groups note.

Softley hopes the Energy Fast will send a message to policymakers that Americans want energy to come from renewable and non-polluting sources.

"Many people consider energy to be invisible, with no thought as to how the energy they use got there," he says. "The Energy Fast aims to get people to realize the power they have."

Margot Higgins
Earth Day Encourages Energy Diet
Environmental News Network, April 16, 2001

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