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Every single thing people do requires energy of some kind. In the beginning, when we lived in caves and did everything by muscle power, we mostly just needed energy for our bodies and some wood to burn for cooking and warmth.

Well, we aren't cavemen anymore. We live in a modern society and lead complex lives, and we use a ginormous amount of energy every single day. Oil, coal, natural gas, and nuclear power-these things run our factories and cars, and generate the electricity that lights our cities and heats or cools our homes. They also run our billions of electronic devices, from the widescreen televisions on our walls to the tiny media players in our pockets. As more and more people are born and the world population rises, so does our need for energy.

So why is this a big deal?

It's limited. Most of the energy we use now (up to 80%) is non-renewable, meaning that it's eventually going to run out. As supplies run out, prices go up, and life gets a lot more expensive for everybody.

It's dirty. Most sources of energy create pollution. Burning coal creates sulphur dioxide, which makes bad air and acid rain that kills our lakes. Nuclear power creates radioactive waste that's so toxic that we often don't even know where to put it! Burning oil makes smog, and spilled oil pollutes our seas. The more energy we use, the more pollution we make, and the dirtier our world gets.

So what can we do? The best way that we, as regular citizens, can make a difference is to try to become energy efficient. This means we need to use less energy and get smarter about how we use it.

Try these easy energy-savers:

  • Take a few minutes to go through your home and turn off anything you're not using at the moment: lights, computers, video game systems, televisions, and so on.

  • Replace standard lightbulbs with energy saving compact fluorescent bulbs (otherwise known as CFL's).

  • Instead of turning on a light during the day, open up the blinds or curtains and let the sunshine in!

  • Paint your rooms in a light color so more light is reflected.

  • If you're feeling a little chilly, try an extra blanket or sweatshirt instead of running to turn up the heat.

  • Never keep windows or doors open when running the heater or air conditioner.

  • Instead of using up energy with the dryer, hang your clothes on a clothesline to dry.

  • Use a towel to dry your hair, instead of an electric hairdryer.

Ask the adults in your life to:

  • Keep the water heater set to no higher than 120 degrees.

  • Replace old appliances with new ones that have an "Energy Star" label. Your city or state might even offer cash incentives for doing this!

  • Make sure the house is properly insulated to keep it warm in winter and cool in summer.

  • During cold weather, keep the thermostat at 68 in the day and 60 at night.

  • Sign up for an "energy audit" of your house. You'll learn where and how your family is wasting energy, how you can get efficient, and save lots of money, too!

  • Look into using "green power" like solar and wind, in your home. These renewable sources of energy are better for everyone, because they don't run out and lead to less pollution.

Next, we talk about: Water: The Stuff of Life.


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