Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Standby For Acton...

Acton is a place in West London which, like Clapham in the south, formed mostly in Victorian times around a major rail and road junction. It is not a place in London I like to visit, and on the occasions I have had to traipse its pavements I have only noted the great preponderance of uncrossable roads and long streets of claustrophobic terraced houses. My mentioning Acton now is only to say that of all the place names that come unwittingly from misspellings, it is the most common, being only an "i" away from Action. The irony of Acton/Action is that whilst suburbs all around Acton move onward and upward, caught in the warm air eddies of property inflation, migration and population pressure, Acton seems stubbornly to resist losing its less-than-chic, anti-cappucino culture, and remains unprepossessingly uninspiring. Thankfully, the local youths have made a decent fist of cheering up the boring expanses of red brick and concrete by undertaking some really creative voluntary art work.

In Acton, all the people leave everything on standby. Actually, they do all over Britain. Acton is just an example. Don't, kind citizens of Action, take this wrongly. I love you and I want your children to be happy. But they wake up and eat sugar in front of cartoons on television of a morning. You like that they can pick up the remote, amuse themselves and leave you slumbering for those precious non-work hours. You like that they don't even have to ask you to turn the television on. You don't turn it off - you put it in standby and expect them to sort themselves out.

"Britons waste the equivalent of around two power stations worth of electricity each year by leaving TV sets and other gadgets on standby... electrical equipment in sleep mode used roughly 7TWh of power and emitted around 800,000 tonnes of carbon." says this BBC article. News this is not to me. I read several years ago that 20% of German power was consumed by domestic appliances in standby mode, so it is hardly surprising that we Brits are similar. A conscientious and helpful man named Mr Baker has "calculated that the CO2 emissions from electrical equipment being left on standby are equivalent to 1.4 million long-haul flights. To put it another way, the entire population of Glasgow could fly to New York and back again and the resulting emissions would still be less than that from devices left in sleep mode."

Sleep mode exactly describes how we are all behaving with regard to resources, doesn't it? We are in collective sleep mode, draining a huge amount of power just by being here, without actually doing anything.

Mr Baker has the answer. Since it is cheaper, then why not do it? Fly the entire population of Glasgow, (or Acton, or Clapham - there would have to be a competition) to New York. Give them some money, point them towards the electrical retailers, and leave them there, in sleep mode.

I'm sure they would love it.

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