When we were first married, Hot Rod and I lived in a little cabin outside Whitefish, Montana. It was 11 by 15 feet, perched on four fairly flat rocks which served as the foundation. It had a single pitch shed roof, with corrugated steel sheeting for the rain to dance on. We called it the Villa Debris. Just prior to hitching up with me, Hot Rod had taken his total savings, $5,000, and used it drill a well on the property. He never hit water. So, we had a cabin, 10 acres…and a $5,000 hole. Still, it was heaven living at the Villa.
Being married to a plumber has its perks. Hot Rod rigged up a rain collection system that fed into a cistern. He tapped into the creek when it was running to fill the tank, too. We used that water for showers and – yep – we even had a hot tub! He had pumps and pipes all arranged so that it was very civilized. It was adventurous, too, because when the creek dried up and it didn’t rain, we ‘poached’ water from a neighbor’s stream. We used a gas powered pump, and under the cloak of night, we sucked their water into our 700 gallon glass lined tank (previously used by another neighbor for milk storage.)
We had a lovely outhouse. An outhouse can be delightful if you maintain it and shovel some stoves ashes into the “composting matter” now and then.
We hauled drinking water from town. I could stretch five gallons of drinking water. I used it by the teaspoon when I brushed my teeth. It never felt like a burden…I conserved because I had to. I got used to it and it became a non-issue.
We moved back to the city and to well water and, well, my conservation efforts got sloppy. While I don’t leave the house with the water running, I don’t turn the water off when I brush my teeth anymore. Unless it hurts – it’s expensive or a hassle – I don’t think conservation is going to go mainstream. Some folks, like Hot Rod, are just environmentally conscious. It breaks his heart to see a plastic bottle hit the landfill. Other folks, like me, need to be coerced into it. And we will get used to it.
If water and fuel were priced as they should be, as the precious commodities they are, we would figure out how to squeeze the most out of every drop. We would be solar powered by now. We, and by “we,” I mean, “you,” would have this figured out because that is what you know how to do. You know how things work.
Last night Hot Rod and I watched a documentary called Gasland. It’s about one man’s investigation into the effects of drilling for natural gas, using a process called “fracking.” Bottom line…the Gulf Oil crisis is one of many disasters caused by our addiction to oil coupled with unsafe, unregulated drilling methods. “Fracking” is causing deadly pollution all across our country, and other parts of the world. I’m not being a catastrophist. You know how water systems work. You can’t randomly crack the ground and not expect to get the toxic drilling chemicals and fuel and water all mixed up. You know that, in spite of what any politicians or oil executives say. You know this because you know how things work.
There are safe (at least, much safer) ways to drill and regulations are part of a responsible approach. Regulations impose safety equipment and systems of checks and balances. Those things cost money and should drive up the cost of fuel. So be it. Fuel should be expensive. Our dependence on fuel has a major impact on our environment, economy and national security. I understand that all our energy decisions have consequences. I also know from firsthand experience that we will get used to getting by with less if we have to pay more. Now is the time to make these decisions and adopt different energy sources.
One of the things I love about Hot Rod is how capable he is when it comes to all things mechanical. A disabled aircraft carrier could find its way to the pond on Know It All Lane and he could figure out how to get it sea-worthy and sailing again. Hot Rod can take the power of the sun and convert it to reliable, comfortable warm water and warm floors. So can you because you know how to do these things. Recently Hot Rod rigged up an outdoor soaking tub for me. I love taking a bath…and sitting outside on a hot summer night, under the stars with the fireflies for company. He can rig up a tub with sun-heated water and provide that nice experience for me. You can do nice things like that, too. No matter where you are in your business, in your life, stop and consider how wonderful your specific skill set is. You know how to make water warm, through a mulititude of different arrangements and fuel sources. You know how to translate that warm water into warm floors, clean clothes and comfortable people. You know how to keep the good water from bad water. You know how to link it all up with electricity and fuel and sunshine without blowing anyone up. Or permanently crippling the environment. Now more than ever, the world needs the skills you have. As someone who might get hurt picking up a channelocks, may I say, “Thank you for all you do.”
We have challenges before us. I know that you can figure out these challenges. Some people may lose their current jobs in the oil fields. Perhaps they can find new jobs in the solar and wind energy industries, or in the pursuit of better regulations for drilling. There is an economy to jump start and our planet to salvage and you know how to do all of these things. Because you know how things work.