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Its called the "rebound effect" and it comes in many forms. One example of the rebound effect results from a situation where an individual or a business saves money from energy efficient light bulbs. Of course, reducing energy use from using the light bulbs saves energy and dollars, but it allows that money to be spent on something else. An economist would say this is a good thing; you can spend to increase your utility and wellbeing. This is true, however the question is, Where does that money go after? Is the money spent on further increasing the efficiency of houses or businesses or is it spent on gasoline for a snowmobile, or in the case of a potential business promoting more unsustainable consumption? You can see, where you spend that savings from using less energy makes a difference.
Another example of the rebound effect relates more to the fuel cell. Picture this situation for a moment: we are all now happy that we can one day be guilt free from the air pollution caused by using our private cars. As a result how do we as a community or individual respond? Do we further promote more car use, by building more highways, parking lots, and ultimately creating more traffic jams, noise and accidents? Or do we continue to implement Whistlers Transportation Plan, reduce car traffic around the village and on the highway while continuing to push for improved rail?
You can see, our individual or institutional response as a result of financial savings or improvements in environmental impact has a large impact on how the ultimate effect changes.
So, welcome to the rebound effect, a phenomena that turns up in our society as a result of our dominant mindsets, goals and structure. One attempt at combating the rebound effect at the personal or company level is to invest savings, as a result of more efficient appliances, in other satisfying activities that continue to bring less harm to the environment and society.
The rebound effect, acting out against sustainability, will be challenging our sustainability efforts until additional satisfaction, happiness, profit, utility or whatever we are all seeking is derived via reducing impacts on the environment and others in society.
The purpose of this letter isn't to dampen spirits. My intent is to raise awareness of something to look out for as individuals and as a community while we plan, create and move towards our future Whistler.