by Focus the Nation‘s Anne Bertucio
“When you know better, you do better.”
― Maya Angelou
I’ve always felt fondly about this quote by Maya Angelou. It resonates a simple truth that applies across cultures and demographics to nearly every situation: The more you know, the better the result. Our energy transition is no exception to Angelou’s observation.
The world is at an energy crossroads. We’ve begun to see the impacts of our energy consumption, felt the impacts of climate change, and acknowledged that we must utilize energy in a more efficient way and transition to clean sources. But what does this mean for the average consumer?
Understanding our Energy Challenges
Energy is one of the world’s largest industries, and it’s intimately intertwined with the global economy and environment. Solving our great global energy challenges should also mean solving our biggest environmental, social, health and economic challenges. Yet for all the wide-eyed, hopeful talk about building out the clean, renewable energy economy of the 21st century, there’s a serious lack of understanding about what energy actually is, how it powers our lives, what problems it causes, what problems it solves, and — perhaps most importantly — the enormous scale of our energy challenges.
When we flip on a light switch, we don’t consider the thousands of miles of wire going to a powering plant that generated the electricity, probably by burning coal, a fossil fuel that started to form millions of years ago when ancient plants were trapped under a layer of mud. All we know is that the lights came on. But if we knew better, we could do better.
Which is why our society must become more energy literate.
Energy Literacy and The Watt?
Focus the Nation is the country’s premier clean energy leadership development organization. We offer college students across the country opportunities to increase their leadership skills and implement clean energy solutions in their communities. But first they must be energy literate. We developed a book called The WATT?: An Energy 101 Primer for our students in 2011. The book covered everything from a refresher about electricity generation to the complexities of America’s grid system. The response was astronomical. We quickly realized that this resource must be accessible to the public if we are to solve our energy crisis.
This summer Focus the Nation launched a Kickstarter campaign to create The WATT? into an interactive ebook. Think interactive infographics, video lectures, a textbook for the 21st century. Some of the facts in The WATT? may surprise you: 1% of annual American energy consumption is equivalent to 8,007,000,000 gallons of gasoline, which is enough to drive round-trip from Los Angeles to New York City in a 25 mpg car 36,062,129 times.
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The WATT? will be available for public purchase in late Fall. Educators are already lining up to get The WATT? into their classrooms, and we couldn’t be more thrilled. Because once we better understand the ins and outs of energy, we will be able to make better energy choices, consume energy in a more efficient manner, and do our part to develop a sustainable clean energy future.