”Minimum Viable Planet” is a weeklyish commentary about climateish stuff, and how to keep it together in a world gone mad. This week, we explore green tech.
Mar 11, 2022
I’ve always been a tech nerd. I attribute it to watching too much Inspector Gadget in my youth.
As I grew up alongside the internet, the opportunity to indulge my gadgety obsessions grew.
This fascination with obscure gadgetry transformed into a fondness for bleeding-edge green tech when I became an adult and began to realize how horrible my home was when it came to energy efficiency. I sprang into sloppy early adopter action, my enthusiasm matched only by my general lack of rigor in assessing new products.
It’s not that I’m lazy so much as impatient, too busy, and all too keen to try new things. And if you’re at the beginning of the curve, most of this stuff is completely untested.
I’m also fascinated by nominative determinism, so I had no choice but to order the solar panels from a guy whose last name was Goldwater, even though the tech was probably 10 years from readiness.
Beyond that, I think I might just be unlucky. When we leased a car during our prime baby years, it was a new plug-in hybrid vehicle that needed a jump every third day and quickly got discontinued.
My husband indulged my ridonkulousness for much longer than he ought to have, but he has now instituted a “let’s not be first” policy, which is fair, but lacks a certain drama.
For my part, I’ve learned to take a bit more time in making these not-insignificant decisions, researching thoroughly, and consulting a trusted group of friends and experts.
Needless to say, I have lots of time for fancy people who buy Teslas, or any shiny new energy-efficient appliance that isn’t old enough to have a Wirecutter review. Please, try the things so they can be improved and cheapened before wide-scale deployment.
Retrofitting millions of homes and businesses is the task of this decade—and there are few cookie-cutter solutions. There’s so much to be learned in so little time that we need people putting themselves on the line whenever they have the capacity to do so.
So the takeaway isn’t what you’d think it would be. Because although some of my early adopter mistakes have been costly, I’ve learned a lot from all of them. I’ve been a sacrificial beta tester. Which is what we need if we’re going to deliver a shit-ton (technical term) of new products at the speed and scale required to mitigate this crisis. At the same time, we’ve all got to take turns, lest we burn out like a poorly designed, early-stage, not-quite-ready-for-prime-time compact fluorescent.
What have you done to make your world more sustainable that hasn’t gone according to plan? What did you learn? As always, let me know!
Something you love. I loved all your somethings so much.
My 2 year-old daughter. Children are so good — they somehow know more than we expect yet they are so innocent in mind and heart. My greatest hope is that we can sustain childhood for generations to come — every child deserves a carefree, healthy, happy life.
I’m a mother. A teacher. Retired. Immersed in faith. And most of all, an observer of people. What is the one moment I love? I’ve nurtured two brothers since they were 2 & 6 years old, extending to when the 14 year old was kicked out of his mother’s home, wandered aimlessly through high school, always taking the less traveled path, and left the US for a hopeful life in his father’s home country. The moment: he returned during COVID, and invited me out to coffee, his treat! The enduring lesson, time and again…. stay with people you care about, through good times and bad. We grow, we change, we need one another.
My one moment when all was right? My bestie and I, still fighting the travel bug after backpacking for 8 months, decided to head west to Expo held in Vancouver that year. (You can Google the date if you feel the need to know how very long ago that was.) My new love was left behind writing his thesis at the edge of his very primitive cottage in the Kawarthas. My bestie and I had some days after expo to head straight up there with our vacuum-packed fresh wild Pacific salmon. When I think of a “one moment,” I think of that meal. Barbecued literally feet from this quiet freshwater lake, tasting like goodness, revelling not just in the company but in the sounds of the crickets, sight of the bats overhead, loons settling in for the night. It was perfection.
And from one of my favorite people in the world, dear Jode, he who invited me to start working on the coolest climate projects a decade ago, and changed my life:
You were able to articulate what has been motivating me since I began rabble rousing in the conservation realm. I have instinctively been aiming to find creative ways to shine a light on things that bring people joy (butterflies, bees, flowers, music, pizza, soup) and somehow thread that together with fun and hopefully memorable actions (planting flowers in a canoe, musical parades, pizza in the park, fake campaigns to knit monarch chrysalises). For me, connection to community is as foundational as re-connection to nature. Thanks as always for sharing. One memorable moment that I come back to, it’s this one. And having just watched that for the first time in years, I remembered I was a bit embarrassed because the Lemon Bucket Orkestra peeps pointed out later that it was a sousaphone, not a tuba. Silly me. (ED NOTE: Jode, know your horns!)
Other Stuff: A Goodbye!
If you’re a journalist, you know this almost never happens: Half a dozen years ago, the wonderful Yes! Magazine editor in chief and creative director Tracy Dunn called me up out of the blue. She’d come across my book at her favorite independent bookseller in Portland and wanted to offer me four pages per issue in YES! to draw about whatever I wanted. It’s been a dream of a gig, working for the best editors on the most beautifully art directed publication. And I know lots of you have found this newsletter because of YES! Magazine’s fantastic support of my work over the years. But it seemed fitting to make this issue, about personal journeys, my last, as I feel this part of my journey has come to an end. So thanks Tracy, Breanna, Bernadette, Natalie, and everyone for everything, always! And if you, dear MVP reader, don’t yet subscribe to YES!, what are you waiting for?
- Check out this cool, free upcoming talk sent to me by lovely Jenn:
The Walrus Talks at Home: Youth and the Climate Crisis
How environmental anxiety can motivate us to make change
Tuesday, March 15, 2022, 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. ET
- Thank you to the wonderful Dr. Kim Nicholas for including me in this beautiful and thorough piece from We Can Fix It, her terrific newsletter. Subscribe, please!
- Need to read something beautiful and full of heart about Ukraine? I loved this thread from comedian Sofiya Alexandra:
I’ve shared this before, but I’m sharing it again, because Jode, KNOW YOUR HORNS! And also because this, my favorite dance party of the year, has been canceled again. (And for you, Balkan pals, who I think constitute 2% of this newsletter’s readership.)
And yes, I have weird visual memory, so here’s the same chandelier, albeit in a less precarious state. Enjoy this bonus banger:
Hope you are happy and healthy and safe and not making foolish home retrofit decisions, unless you, like me, very much enjoy them,
P.S. This is my newsletter for the week of March 11, 2022, published in partnership with YES! Media. You can sign up to get Minimum Viable Planet newsletter emailed directly to you at https://mvp.substack.com.
Sarah Lazarovic is an award-winning artist, creative director, freelance animator and filmmaker, and journalist, covering news and cultural events in comic form. She is the author of A Bunch of Pretty Things I Did Not Buy.
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