The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, June 16, 2006


Mene, Mene

The other day I managed to locate a copy of a new book: The Home Owner's Guide to Energy Independence Alternative Power Sources for the Average American, by Christine Woodside. I found it in the reference section, behind an open door in a back corner of the bookstore. It was symptomatic of the energy problems we currently face: if you want to do something about the problem, you must dig for it.

According to Woodside, an environmental reporter and journalist, the oil barrel is half empty. In the 1940s and 1950s M. King Hubbert, a geologist working for Shell, predicted that American oil production would peak in 1970 and thereafter decline. Indeed, ever since 1970 we have found less and pumped less. Only a quarter of the oil in Prudhoe Bay remains today. The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge has considerably less oil, certainly nowhere near enough to alleviate the current crisis, given our current consumption. Worldwide production of oil was predicted to peak in 1995, but several perturbations have delayed that peak: the 1973 oil embargo, price shocks, and worldwide recessions. We are currently living through the peak years of world oil production. Given our present rate of consumption, oil may last another 40 or 50 years.

But haven't we become more efficient over the years? Yes, but we must consider the Jevons Paradox, named after Englishman William Jevons, who pointed out in the 1860s that energy efficiency (he was looking at the coal industry) can result in actual increases in energy consumption, fuelled, paradoxically, by energy savings. We can see that today, for example, in refrigerators, which are twice as efficient as they were 20 or 30 years ago. But instead of small refrigerators, we now have big ones; instead of one, we may have two. Energy efficiency doesn't lead automatically to energy conservation.

Whether one believes that global warming is "good" or "bad" science, the polar icecaps are, in fact, melting and violent storms have increased in frequency. Furthermore, energy prices have risen dramatically. Even if we could return to, say, the price of gasoline in 2000, would we want to continue our current energy consumption behavior? What will happen if the billions in India and China begin to mimic our energy use? Currently, America uses one quarter of the world's yearly oil output. We use more, person for person, than any other nation in the world.

In the absence of a national energy policy, what can we do here in Carlisle today?

• Turn off computers, TVs, appliances when not in use

• Heat and cool less

• Upgrade appliances to conserve power

• Update furnace and hot water heater

• Take showers (3 gallons per minute, as opposed to a 50- or 70-gallon bath)

• Switch to fluorescent light bulbs

How much difference can the simple switch to fluorescent bulbs make? Nationally, lights use as much as 34% of our electricity. Compact fluorescent bulbs use one-third the power and last ten times as long. Little steps in concert can shake the world.

When Belshazzar saw the divine handwriting on the wall, after looting the Jerusalem Temple of its treasures, he called on Daniel to interpret the words, Mene, Mene, Tekel, Peres. Daniel replied: Mene: God hath numbered thy kingdom, and finished it. Tekel: thou art weighed in the balance, and found wanting. Peres: thy kingdom is divided, and given to the Medes and Persians.

The Medes and Persians were, of course, the ancient rulers of what is today Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia.

A fond farewell to Tom O'Halloran

Okay, I know I shouldn't brag, but I can't help it. While parents of music students, as well as present-day and former students in the Carlisle School's instrumental music program prepare to say good-bye to retiring Band Director Tom O'Halloran at the 2006 Alumni Concert at Concord-Carlisle High School on Saturday night, I can't keep quiet! Whenever praise of our outstanding school music director comes up in the conversation, as it often has since the day he arrived in Carlisle, I'm sure to say "Didn't you know, I was the one who brought Tom O'Halloran to Carlisle." Of course, that's a bit of an exaggeration, but I have to admit I take special pride in being able to say something like that whenever I can.

I first met Tom O'Halloran back in 1979 when my son Tim was in the fifth grade at the Carlisle Public School. Janet Peckham was the instrumental music teacher when Tim decided to play trombone in the school band. Tom, who was teaching in the Belmont School System at the time, was suggested as a trombone teacher, so for the next four years I drove Tim to Belmont or to Tom's home in Boxborough for his weekly trombone lesson.

One Sunday morning in the spring of 1983 the phone rang and it was Tom on the line. "I just read an ad in the Sunday Boston Globe. They're looking for a music teacher in Carlisle. What do you think, should I apply?" he asked. "Oh, for sure you should apply," was my enthusiastic response. "I'll call the school principal, Dr. Matt King, the first thing in the morning." And yes, I called Dr. King the next morning and there weren't enough good things I could say about hiring Tom O'Halloran for the position.

So here it is 23 years later and Tom O'Halloran is retiring at the end of the school year. I called my son Tim, now teaching at Bryn Mawr College outside of Philadelphia, and asked him to share his thoughts on his former trombone teacher.

Tim Harte wrote: "Tom O'Halloran played an extremely important role in my education. Sometime during fifth grade I began taking trombone lessons from Tom in Belmont. Tom was a true teacher, always demanding a great deal from me and taking pleasure in my improvement as a musician. He could be brutally honest, but he certainly made it clear what I needed to work on and what my limitations and strengths were as a trombonist. His caring, yet demanding approach to music and performance made me want to practice harder and improve as a player.

"Tom also took an interest in what I thought and did outside of trombone playing and music lessons, and I recall always looking forward to our conversations before and after lessons, when we would chat about music, sports, school, and other matters. And although I put down my trombone soon after my freshman year in college, I nevertheless feel that the lessons I learned from Tom remained intact, providing me with a great appreciation for hard work and professionalism. I feel lucky to have had such a mentor."


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2006 The Carlisle Mosquito