Kilo-what? What’s the unit for measuring eco-guilt?



We just got our Capelight Company energy efficiency report. The graphic shows three lines. The shortest one is chartreuse and says 468 kWh and next to that it says: excellent. The sapphire blue one in the center is 1,054 kwts and next to that are the words in bold: your home. And then at the bottom is a gray line and it says: 1,348 kWt. And next to that are the words similar homes

My husband has told me hundreds of times that a kilowatt is 1,000 watts and that a kilowatt hour is a measure of electrical energy equivalent to a power consumption of a thousand watts per hour. Usually I glaze over when he starts his kilowatt lectures.

He reads these reports with every bill. I never look because…oy…then I’d feel guilty. I know if I really listened I’d never again use the toaster. 

I’ve told you before I’m married to the Energy Czar — a czar with a huge heart and a desperate worry about his favorite planet, my home, and yours. 

This morning when he finished reading and I happened to be there with no escape route, he looked at it and said “it’s hard to be excellent instead of just plain good when it comes to electricity.” It’s times like these that I refall in love with the man. He’s relentless and it’s never about himself. It’s always about the blue ball, Planet Earth.

He’s like David Attenborough — in awe of the natural world and in pain over its imminent demise. Friends and family call my husband and his brother The Doomsday Boys. They are, however, capable of having fun. They can laugh and play around but go ahead and spend any time with either of them and you will get a passionate discourse on small safe molten salt thorium reactors, and how wind and solar are good but cannot handle the future electrical demands and how climate refugees are finally in the news but people just aren’t waking up in time because it’s not affecting them directly. They both end up putting their heads in their hands. 

My husband wrote to Michael Moore after watching his movie, Planet of the Humans. He wrote to Jeff Bezos and told him what a waste of energy and money his planned trips to Mars are and that there is no plan B. He also wrote to Jane Fonda. No responses. He has written letters to editors everywhere. He has printed facts on two sides of an 8 x 11 dayglo colored sheet of paper with information on thorium and given away several copies of a book called The Answer, also about thorium. He thinks people shower too much. His own occasional shower is a trickle and he tells me what it takes for the cold water to get heated in the hot water heater. Among many other embarrassing actions he incorporates into our everyday life, the one that I want him to stop is when when he sees the hostess or the caterer after a dinner party washing dishes and letting the hot water run down the drain, he actually rushes to their side and says ‘please, at least let the hot water work for you. Let it rinse the other dishes and can’t you use less?’ 

The invitations are dwindling.

As I am writing this, he attempts once more to explain in laywoman’s terms the difference between power and energy. He says electrical energy is electrical power used over a certain amount of time. Ten 100-watt light bulbs represents 1,000 watts of power or one kilowatt. If those bulbs were left on for one hour that would be one kilowatt hour of energy. And of course, when I am willing to, I get it, I get it. But I feel like any little contribution I make, like turning off that lightbulb, won’t make a difference. 

And that’s the problem. Most of us don’t believe our little effort is going to help. It does, he says. Plenty, if we all made drastic changes in our energy consumption. Then he adds, “what do you have to lose?” And his answer? “Just this precious life.” 


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Nancy Aronie
Nancy Aronie
Nancy Slonin Aronie is the author of Writing from the Heart: Tapping the Power of Your Inner Voice, a commentator for National Public Radio, and the founder of the Chilmark Writing Workshop. “I printed 500 T shirts that say ‘Ask me about thorium’ [a proposed alternative energy source], and give them out on a regular basis. But more on that another time.”

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