Fine Homebuilding – June 2023
English | 84 pages | pdf | 45.18 MB
Welcome Fine Homebuilding Magazine June 2023 Issue
Putting words to work
It’s our job at Fine Homebuilding Magazine to publish clear, understandable advice about better ways of building. Recently I was reminded that the language we use really matters. I received a sponsored email from another trade publication with an article titled “Propane Is the Environmentally Friendly Energy for Builders.” It was authored by the Propane Energy and Research Council (PERC).
The green-colored text, the slogan “Energy for Everyone,” and a logo consisting of water, mountains, and the sun all reinforce the notion that this is a sustainability focused initiative. If I had not recently read a piece in the New York Times about PERC, I might have taken the claim at face value. While it is true that burning propane produces fewer emissions than conventional fossil fuel alternatives, its manufacture and use still produce harmful emissions.
I shouldn’t be surprised to see sponsored misinformation. Fossil fuel companies have known since at least the 1980s about the harmful effects of greenhouse gases and the contribution they make to climate change, but the budget they employ to influence public opinion and legislators is huge. They’ve been lying—and getting rich—while contributing to the destruction of the planet on a mass scale.
Words have influence. Even the phrase “natural gas” is problematic. Yes, it can be found in nature, but the connotation that natural gas is safe and doesn’t cause harm to the environment when extracted and burned is troublesome. Natural gas is typically 70% to 90% methane, one of the most potent greenhouse gases and a chief contributor to global warming. Why don’t we call it “methane gas” instead?
The world’s energy transition is full of contradictions and compromises, and the problems we’re dealing with are nuanced. We must clearly communicate what we’re working with and why we’re doing what we’re doing so we can make the best decisions with today’s resources and an eye on the future.
—ANDREW ZOELLNER editorial director