Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Chilling out

Hope you caught the latest polling results from the UK, which revealed a decline of 20 percentage points in the proportion of people who believe climate change is a major environmental priority.  The survey in Britain mirrors public opinion in other Western countries, including our own.  Maybe as a result of tough economic times (which, in the past, have overshadowed environmental concerns), climate change, conservation, clean air, and other issues are taking a back seat.  I remember seeing research from my days as a consultant to the National Audubon Society that indicated environmentalism was a 'luxury' issue for many of us---something we focus on as a second tier issue when our jobs, incomes, and housing feel more secure.

BobOnARoll is reflecting on how much energy we are using to keep ourselves cool in warm/hot weather.  Whether it's because of my advancing age or a change in the way aircon is delivered and managed in places I live and work, I am feeling perpetually cold indoors----in fact, chilled down, like a slab in a meat locker.  In Dubai, the contrast between 100 degree heat outside and 65 (or less!) indoors is shocking to the mind and even sickening to the body.  Last night, on the 86th Street crosstown bus, it felt like a refrigerator truck.  Airplanes way too cold, restaurants where we need sweaters in the middle of the summer.  Perspiring our way through July outdoors and shivering indoors.  Isn't there something wrong with this picture?

What are we doing to ourselves and why?  I'm not advocating a return to the Jimmy Carter cardigan sweater by the fire days.  Though am confident in conservation as a 'source' of energy---a big source, in fact---it won't work if people believe they have to reduce the quality of their lives to achieve a less tangible outcome.

Tom Friedman at the NYT and many others have expressed the idea that environmentalism, especially conservation of fuel and electric, is a national security issue.  A potential win-win for the environment and the nation if we reduce our dependence on energy imports.  And we could do that right now, without a dollar of investment.  Obama can set an example for all---open those White House windows, Barack, on moderate days and aircon naturally!  Let's make Tuesday a national no aircon day for all residences and offices not hermetically sealed in by unopenable windows.  Thursday is carpool to work day, and so forth and so on.  We don't need (yet) to radically alter our lives to achieve a great outcome here.  Lots of small steps can make a big difference.

And, for godsake, open the crosstown bus windows !


  1. No expert on physics though had read we were potentially years away from practical use of that technology..... I was sort of making the point that small sacrifices we can each make will free up significant resources, help protect the planet, and begin to shift the balance of power away from oil-producing regimes, most of them unfriendly to our interests.

  2. In my condo building the utilities are part of the common charges so there is NO incentive for people to conserve and they DON'T. ACs run non-stop. Sacrifice? Conserve?