Rome, NY Sucks

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Monday, October 17, 2005

Buy Your Kid a Freedom Tree

I've been thinking about what we can do about high energy prices. The answer is probably not much. There's the Bill O'Reilly plan. Don't buy gas on Sundays or drive on your days off. You can live in a shack, peak oil style. Of course, you'll still have to heat that sucker. However, the levels of consumerism in this country can provide the solution.

People should really consider the consumption of cheap plastic crap from China. You know those no-name brands of VCRs, DVDs, TVs, computers and any number of other items from the big box and smaller box stores in the country.

Raw materials (aka petroleum derived plastics) come from the Middle East in tankers where they are processed in China into products. Then they make a trip on huge ships halfway around the world to a shipping center in the US. All this still saves money because the labor is paid almost nothing and provided food and housing by a government that buys Treasury bonds to cover its expenses. China, despite its call for renewables, is one of the least efficient users of fossil fuels. Transportation costs added to that make it a real drain on oil supply, regardless of its awful trade practices.

Since you can't buy most consumer electronics from a US source anymore, one option is to limit purchases. Buy a good VCR/DVD from an electronics store and keep it for a few years. Get a DVR or a DVD burner and stop buying those huge plastic VHS tapes. Repair your TV instead of replacing it.

With the holidays season coming up, the strong urge is to shop. The trend is even stronger when you have kids to shop for. Think about rental services like Netflix instead of buying game packages that will have a useful life of about a month. Then there's the more creative option.

If you have the money or interest, you could buy your child a solar or wind power system. You can call it a "freedom tree" if you have to explain it to your Republican friends. Get a small system to power their room. As a techie, I would have loved such a toy.

If your kid is not so inclined, you can look into the financial benefits. Take your energy savings, take some for paying off the freedom tree and make the rest an allowance. If the savings are really high, make it a college fund too. It is a lot sounder investment than PetroChina.


  • At October 19, 2005 8:00 AM, Blogger baloghblog said…

    this was posted to my blog, but it should have been put here:

    UNplanner said...

    This is always a point of contention between the missus and myself over toys for the kids. I think the kids are being just a bit corrupted by all of those Cheap Plastic Toys (which both of us actually refer to as CPT's) I would like to see less or none be given, but my wife does not always go along.

    I just wonder what my kids (one and four) will think as they look back at their childhood in the future. Will they remember each year getting more simple and spartan as they grow. Will handmade gifts be the rule in a few years? Will they still remember trips to see family (currently residing on 3 continents)?

    It's a bit weird to envision human progress run in reverse and deeply saddening when you really really think about it. This sense of loss begins early too, as children are acutely aware of scarcity and limitations. My eldest hates being told no more or all done when doing something she really enjoys. At times it almost causes physical pain. And its only natural. She learns (and hopefully realizes) that she can't have everything she wants or when she wants. Eventually she understands, but a little bit of loss enters her conciousness. The harder part for me is watching her experience this with the understanding that her losses will only increase over time, whereas mine were tempered by the prospect of better days ahead.

    The only thing I can really be guarenteed to give her (and her sister) as long as I am around is a sense of love and belonging. No energy crisis or collapsing civilization will take that away from me.

    4:11 AM

  • At November 13, 2005 7:26 AM, Blogger LuceLu said…

    Being the King and Queen of giving "CPT"'s (we called them "cheap plastic crap") to our Prince, it has tapered down quite a bit. His tastes have changed with age (he is turning 13 this year). However, we could have purchased much less and it was painful sending that huge box full of action heroes to the nephews and then the thrift stores. Interestingly, the only toys of that type we have kept are Legos/MegaBlocks and the wooden Thomas the tank train and tracks. Everytime a child comes here, they play with them. Of course we still have the dress-up knights/swords and toy guns. They always get played with. Kids love to pretend. My son wore a cape for about 2 years when he was little, alas those are gone.

    I'd like to address video games. Buy used and recycle. It has been hard but I think my son is learning that the game is not "worth" $50 when in 4 months it sells for $20. There are also rental clubs like Netflix for games but I thought they were too expensive however, renting at Blockbuster generally doesn't give a kid a long enough time to beat the game (depending on game type).

    Now we try to just provide a fun experience for him--have a friend or two over and go to a movie, go roller skating, or to laser tag/arcade and an overnight where they can hang out and blow each other up on Halo2. We will get him one gift to open.


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