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By the Light of the Sun
Current Dilemma
by Duncan Sprattmoran

Life is flux and one can never step in the same river twice said Zeno or Hericlitus. And their truths certainly still apply to most things in these turbulent times; I still find change to be the only constant, and I have learned that the best way to navigate change is to go with the flow. As we face the fin de siecle atmosphere of these last years of the twentieth century, the only constant we have is our lives are predicated upon the incessant consumption of energy, and that in order to survive we must be assured of reliable sources of power.

Currently, as I write, warriors again stalk the hills of the Middle East, and we, in the relative safety of our homes, continue to demand that steady river of Arabian crude. Each time I fill my car, I think of weapons massed outside my door, the weapons my countrymen manufacture and sell upon the assumption that they are buying security. As I watched energy prices climbing over these past cold months, I've felt like a piece of flotsam on a rising flood, floating without direction, driven by the wind and the whims of the tides. Only at home do I feel somewhat secure. The constant bombardment of photons on the photovoltaic cells creates a constant current which trickles into my house, which flows into the lights which allow my NMJ FEATURED ADVERTISER daughters to read, which flows through the resistors and transistors and chips of the computer on which I write. The solar cells vibrate on a sub atomic level and that flux, channelled down the lengths of copper, energizes my life.

I read last week in The Atlantic Monthly (probably an older issue which a friend had passed on to me) about the coming oil shortage and how ill equipped America is to deal with the domestic and international tensions such shortage will unleash. Over the past twenty years, though the worldwide production of alternative energy sources has increased manyfold, America's share in this production decreased as our corporations pursued the quick and easy dollar. Now Japanese and German companies own the majority of solar companies and they will profit from the burgeoning market. American shortsightedness does not surprise me; rather, I am saddened that this country which spouts the rhetoric of independence and individualism, actually abdicated these ideals in the name of profit. Our energy companies have sold the American people a one way ticket in a leaky canoe up a river we all know now to be nothing but petrified shit. And most of my compatriots buy this baloney because it seems so easy. After all, what could be easier than flipping a switch and getting juice to the air-conditioner, television, refrigerator, microwave oven, water heater, heating pad, electric shaver, toothbrush, carving knife. This promise of convenience drives the American id much as falling water turns a turbine. The problem is, rarely do we factor in the cost of this psuedo convenience. We don't equate our own comfort with extinction, pollution, deforestation, the gradual and imperceptible degradation of our live. No, it is too damn easy just to flip the switch and pay the bill when it comes in the mail.

I never thought about electricity as current until I lived with alternative sources of power. If I thought of it at all I thought of it as some mysterious force people like Edison and Fermi brought to us, something so potent it would kill you if you talked on the phone while taking a bath. However, over the past eight years I have come to appreciate the ebb and flow of electricity, the rush of amps from the panels into the batteries when the sun shines brightly, the correlating pulse of amps from the batteries to the instruments which make my life brighter. Electricity becomes in this model simply another manifestation of the life force energy that eddies in marvelous currents all around us.

I know there is no way to step out of the river, nor would I want to at this point in my life where home and kids and wife and work and play all meet at the rich confluence of the moment; I appreciate what is current all the more knowing my life is powered directly by the sun.
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