Sunday, May 4, 2008

Gas Hole – Connections between our unsustainable energy consumption and unsustainable human energy consumption in the Social Sector.

Find out how you can see this movie at I saw it Friday night at the Fox Theater in Tucson. This movie has a lot of information about the business practices of the oil companies, and how this results in incredibly high gas prices.

One of the things that struck me while watching the movie, was the connection between the thinking that leads to our unsustainable energy consumption, and the unsustainable human energy consumption in the social sector. What language is used when we talk about our energy consumption? Phrases like “meeting our energy needs” or “increasing energy demands.” When we really think about this – how are we thinking about energy needs? Do we need to drive RV’s, to drive to offices when technology would make it possible for much of the workforce to work at home, to drive at all when we could ride a bike or take mass transit? Since oil is a limited resource, even if we drilled every drop on the planet – if we don’t consume less and reduce the demand - we will run out. We can consume less, and one of the many ways we can consume less that was featured in this movie is by driving car engines that get more miles per gallon. It was somewhat unsettling to see how many engines have been designed that get 100 miles per gallon and more – and yet are not available for people to buy.

One of the messages of hope in the movie is that if we as a country focus our resources on achieving a goal, we can do it. They gave as examples how our country responded to World War II, the building of the atomic bomb by the Manhattan Project, and the commitment to reach the moon. All of these things were accomplished by focusing our resources on achieving a goal we felt was important as a nation to achieve. And which is technically more difficult, reaching the moon or building an engine that gets more miles per gallon? Really - reaching the moon is more difficult. If you see this movie you will learn about the many people that have actually built engines that get very high gas mileage, that have been bought by oil companies, and are hiding somewhere.

When you look at the parallels to this in the social sector, the language that is used when talking about the delivery of health care, education, or social services is also “meeting the needs” of the clients. Well how are these needs defined, who defines them, and how is the method of meeting them defined? Often, it isn’t by the consumers of these services. And just as unsustainable as our consumption of energy, is our consumption of human energy in our current attempts to "meet people's needs" rather than helping people develop their own resiliency and use their own resources. We can reduce the demand for human services by building on people’s strengths instead of trying to meet their needs. What connections do you see?

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