Neighborhood Conservation Clubs

Interview with Dan at AERO in Helena
March 5, 2009
Dan is the coordinator for Neighborhood Sustainability Clubs
The idea of clubs was hatched by Ben Brower, in the same ofice, after reading the book “Low Carbon Diet” The book was about individual low-carbon living. Since AERO’s mission is to “link people to create sustainable solutions”, Ben put the neighborhood template to the ideas in the book.

The meeting 2 days ago in Bozeman attracted a total of 15 people. “Ten of them were individuals interested in the concept”. The other 5 were him, Ben Brower, a local intern for the City of Bozeman and two other taxpayer supported employees, I would guess.

Helena is the pilot and Bozeman is the first franchise. In Helena, they have 2 clubs that are active that meet about every month. There are 6 other clubs that “meet every few months.” This is a resounding success, one that merits effort by city employees, and much press coverage? The Chronicle has been promoting it.

Dan thinks that clubs make sense from both a environmental as well as an economic point of view. They “find and promote cost effective ways to lower utility bills and energy costs.” It sound so much like an individualistic, free-market concept, about how to save your own hard-earned cash. But it is a collective organization promising individual gain. That is a suspicious blend.

My big reservation is about spying. Neighbor watching neighbor’s electric meter through binoculars. Children turning their parents in. Social coercion. I doubt they’ll get many people willing to subject themselves to the expectations and scrutiny of their neighbor. This is what we see in Cuba. China’s Cultural Revolution had aspects of this, neighbors enforcing the Party’s dogma.

The following is a quote from the Bozeman Daily Chronicle:
In Helena, the clubs have done household energy assessments, set conservation targets, collectively bought and shared a push lawnmower, taken turns picking up and hauling each other’s recycling, and replaced water-intensive plants with native plants and shrubs, Wold said.

Sharing a push lawnmower? How do you get out of that commitment? Will your neighbors ostracize you if you abandon the club and mow the May forest of grass with a gas mower? What if your recylcing pile is not its usual size? Will someone from the Club come over to “encourage” you to keep recycling? Will pictures of your sprinklers going at a non-approved time be emailed to other Club members as a chastisement?

As I said before, few people are going to volunteer for this level of hassle, enviro-moralism and scrutiny.

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