The Heat Is On

My back is sore. My knees ache. My fingers are raw.

The pain is worth it, though, as we warm ourselves by the fireplace on a cold autumn evening.

Brad and I spent the weekend loading, cutting, chopping and stacking a truck full of firewood, a gift from a generous friend.

Sitting here now, watching as each piece of our labor turns to ash and ember, I wonder how much energy we wasted when all we had to do was push a button on the thermostat.

Looking at a stack of wood, the notion of energy as a finite resource becomes real. On transitional days in between seasons, when it might be 65 degrees inside the house, I find myself debating if the discomfort is enough to warrant burning down our reserves — sending us out that much sooner in search of fallen trees to replenish the stores.

More often than not, I put on a sweater and make a cup of hot tea to warm my hands.

As long as heat instantly appears with the effortless tap of a button, we are free to ignore its true cost, and the limit of its supply.

Both are clear to the Water Protectors putting their lives on the line at Standing Rock, the Native tribes defending the Missouri River from contamination as a natural gas pipeline is laid to meet the nation’s growing demand for energy.

A lot of folks are outraged about the government attacks on protesters, checking in on Facebook at Standing Rock and donating money for supplies and legal defense. Those actions are admirable and necessary, but when they’re done from a laptop in a room heated with the same natural gas that threatens to destroy the reservation, well, they kind of miss the point.

Standing Rock has reminded me to conserve and live lightly, that our actions in one part of the country can have a profound impact on people far away that we don’t even know.

So I’m going to stand with Standing Rock in the only way I know how. I’ll take the first step toward eliminating energy sources that hurt others for my own gain. I’ll turn the thermostat down to 65 degrees for the duration of winter. I will be respectful of natural resources and use them wisely. I will “earn my burn,” as Brad likes to say, whenever we need heat.

For a scrawny Southern girl who already spends three months of the year in, at least, two layers of clothes, this will be difficult. But if I can do it, anyone can.

We’ve talked a lot on the blog about conscious consumerism when it comes to food and material goods. Now I challenge you to become conscious consumers of energy. Even if you don’t have a fireplace and can’t generate your own heat, you can still make a difference. Use a programmable thermostat to lower temps when no one is around, sleep with a hot water bottle, and above all, mindfully choose if and when to use energy rather than letting it be a constant presence in the background.

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