The Fence or the Ambulance

While the world is running in circles trying to find solutions for global warming and energy supplies, sometimes it's good to just stop, and think!

When high school science teacher Ray Janke bought a home in Belchertown, Mass., he decided to see how much he could save on his electric bill.

He exchanged incandescent bulbs for compact fluorescents, put switches and surge protectors on his electronic equipment to reduce the "phantom load" - the trickle consumption even when electronic equipment is off - and bought energy-efficient appliances.

Two things happened: He saw a two-thirds reduction in his electric bill, and he found himself under audit by Mass Electric. The company thought he'd tampered with his meter. "They couldn't believe I was using so little," he says.

Mr. Janke had hit on what experts say is perhaps the easiest and most cost-effective place to reduce one's energy consumption: home. - CSM

With environmental issues, just as with other areas of life, prevention is always better than cure - particularly since the cures consume energy on their own! Over a century ago Joseph Malins wrote the following poem - still just as valid today as it was then.


Fence or Ambulance? By Joseph Malins (1895)

’Twas a dangerous cliff, as they freely confessed, though to walk near its crest was so pleasant; But over its terrible edge there had slipped a duke, and many a peasant; So the people said something would have to be done, but their projects did not at all tally. Some said: "Put a fence round the edge of the cliff"; some, "An ambulance down in the valley."

But the cry for the ambulance carried the day, for it spread through the neighboring city. A fence may be useful or not, it is true, but each heart became brimful of pity, For those who slipped over that dangerous cliff; and the dwellers in highway and alley, Gave pounds or gave pence, not to put up a fence, but an ambulance down in the valley.

"For the cliff is all right if you’re careful," they said, "And if folks even slip and are dropping, It isn’t the slipping that hurts them so much as the shock down below when they’re stopping." So day after day as those mishaps occurred, quick forth would these rescuers sally, To pick up the victims who fell off the cliff with the ambulance down in the valley.

Then an old sage remarked, "It’s a marvel to me that people give far more attention To repairing results than to stopping the cause, when they’d much better aim at prevention. Let us stop at its source all this mischief," cried he; "Come, neighbors and friends, let us rally; If the cliff we will fence, we might almost dispense with the ambulance down in the valley."

"Oh he’s a fanatic," the others rejoined; "Dispense with the ambulance? Never! He’d dispense with all charities too if he could. No, no! We’ll support them forever! Aren’t we picking up folks just as fast as they fall? And shall this man dictate to us? Shall he? Why should people of sense stop to put up a fence while their ambulance works in the valley?"

But a sensible few, who are practical too, will not bear with such nonsense much longer. They believe that prevention is better than cure; and their party will soon be the stronger. Encourage them, then, with your purse, voice, and pen, and (while other philanthropists dally) They will scorn all pretense and put a stout fence on the cliff that hangs over the valley.


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  • Posted on Jan. 8, 2007. Listed in:

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