Windows on the world


Energy For All Global Citizens
(First published at Fall 2005)

Whether we know it or not, we are all global citizens, but the wonder of nature is such that the phrase will mean something different to each and everyone of us.  I canít say what it will mean for you, but this is my story.

At heart I am a theosophist.  If you want to know what that means there are lots of musty old books and a few modern ones.  Put simply, it means that I believe in harmony and unity: between individuals; between communities; between humankind and nature; and between humankind and God, or the universe. 

Thatís quite a claim, but a lot of people can make grand statements about their beliefs which are not reflected in their lifestyles.  How do I back it up?  Thereís nothing new in theosophy, itís as old as the hills (well, older, actually): respect, compassion, love; all the elements of the great religions, and one that isnít preached so much: responsibility.  You canít lay the blame on fate or divine intervention.  Itís karma, not kop-out.  Each human being is responsible for his or her actions, and to practice respect, love and compassion you need to be aware of the likely consequences of everything you do.  If you want to avoid the road to Hell, add awareness to your good intentions.

On a mundane level, that means being kind and considerate in all your daily exchanges, being constructive and supportive, not destructive or hurtful.  Does it mean turning the other cheek?  Not necessarily.  Sometimes you need to defend yourself, to stand up for what you believe.  Itís a question of whether condoning or rejecting inappropriate behaviour will lead to more or less harmony.  Just be aware of the consequences.

This is where I get to the boring bit.  We all want to be kind to a stray dog or a lame duck; it even makes us feel good.  But awareness when you go shopping?  That seems to be too much to ask of some people.  Still, itís part of theosophy.  Our consumption of Ďstuffí costs the planet.  ĎStuffí has to be grown, harvested, manufactured, assembled, freighted, whatever.  It costs energy, at the very least.  And, to the extent that powerful individuals and organisations exploit disadvantaged individuals and less powerful countries, my consumption can cost a stranger his happiness, his livelihood, or even his life.  

It doesnít stop there.  I invest for my old age.  I used to go for the investments that promised the best returns.  Not any more.  I donít invest in companies that make weapons or cigarettes; I donít invest in companies with a bad record on pollution or local employment.  It means I missed out on the boom in oil stocks, but it has its compensations.  In recent years I have been looking at renewable energy.

Before we get to the last barrel of oil
The world needs energy.  Over the last 100 years or so it has come from fossil fuels, which, as we all know, will run out one day.  Not that we will be around on the last day; it will be dog-eat-dog long before we get to the last barrel of oil.  And, of course, burning fossil fuels releases greenhouse gases and changes the climate.  And who suffers from climate change?  Oh, itís those disadvantaged people again.  We saw who suffered when Katrina hit New Orleans : the people who didnít have cars to escape, and second homes offering refuge.  There are 100 million people living within one meter of sea level, and they are all at risk from climate change.  What can you do about it, as a global citizen?  I buy my electricity on a green tariff.  And I have solar thermal collectors on my roof.  And I drive a hybrid car.  And I try to reduce my consumption of luxury air-freighted food.

But I was talking about investments.  A few years ago I invested in a small wind farm community co-operative in the north of England , and itís paid a nice return ever since.  Not long after I invested, the co-op asked for volunteer directors from its 1300 members.  I am an accountant with a lot of business experience, approaching a time of life when I donít need to maximise my earnings potential, so I volunteered.  What I found was an operation that wasnít quite big enough to be self-sufficient, so I set about trying to gain some critical mass.  Seems thereís quite a demand for this kind of thing.  We set up a separate company to handle all the enquiries and called it Energy4All.  Now we are working with communities all over the UK who want to set up their own little wind farm co-operative.  We do all the hard work; they get to own their own wind turbines.  And to make it really fair, the co-ops get to own Energy4All as well.

Itís not a bad investment.  We sell our electricity on the open market.  As prices rise, so do our profits, which we pay out to the members, so financial benefits stay in the community.  The co-ops have a loose affiliation with each other, some investors own shares in more than one co-op, and we are creating one big happy family.  Most companies go in for a bit of empire building, but what we are creating is more of a commonwealth of communities.  And by our actions, in our own backyards in the UK , we are helping to combat the effects of climate change, which in turn helps poor communities throughout the world.  Wow, humankind working in harmony with nature.  Forget the musty old books, this is what theosophy is all about.  And this is what itís like to be a global citizen. 

What are you waiting for?  Start harmonising!

© Harvey Tordoff
November 2005