Briefly Noted: Power Pestering


The exhibition "Spark!" at the Charlottesville Community Design Center in Charlottesville, Virginia, is meant to prepare us for "a widespread switch to clean and renewable sources" by encouraging visitors to "address their own carbon footprint."

The exhibit consists of type-dense posters explaining things like how to get federal and state tax breaks for wrapping hot water heaters in snazzy silver-colored insulation or installing solar panels on your roof. The information isn't always accurate. The solar energy display, for example, misleadingly claims that "generating your own energy is a cushion against rising oil prices" and "minimizes our nation's dependence on foreign oil." Generating your own electricity (while taking advantage of tax breaks) could lower your electric bills, but it will not displace much oil, which mostly fuels automobiles.

We do need to understand more about our energy use, but there's more to that than exhortations to lower our quality of life in pursuit of efficiency.