24 June 2009

a smidgen of solidarity

i love a sixty-eight degree room as much as the next american, but as of late i’m finding air conditioning hard to justify.

for starters, there’s the whole global energy crisis, and the troubling effects of our nation’s ever-expanding carbon footprint on the planet i’m handing off to my kids. but more importantly, i’m just not convinced that tweaking the air temperature to suit my comfort is a wise use of our money and resources.

i was thinking about this last week sometime: what does most of the world’s population do when it’s hot out? they deal with it. in fact, a good portion of the earth’s poor are consumed with thoughts of scraping together the next meal or the odds of their sick child surviving a ten mile trek to the closest clinic, which may or may not be out of meds this week. air temperature doesn’t even register on their cognitive radars.

this whole Spoiled American bit is wearing thin, and i want out.

i am blessed to be married to a man who not only humors my latest efforts to live conscionably, but usually finds himself climbing aboard for the long haul.

hurrah for fab husbands.

my free (albeit obvious) tips for dealing with hot, muggy days:

1. dress in cool, light clothing
2. turn on a fan (which still consumes energy, i know, but is a far cry from the appetite of a condensing unit)
3. stay hydrated
4. shower in cold water
5. let hair air-dry after a shower
6. keep windows open during the night/early morning, closed during much of the day
7. move to hawaii where near-constant trade winds make 85 degrees feel like 75 (useful tip list, isn't it?)
8. rinse face/neck with cool water
9. when all else fails, suck it up

would you consider joining me? if not for an entire summer, maybe just a month? a week? one day per week for the next three months?

maybe this won’t change much for our planet or our global neighbors. but maybe it will. and at the very least, this changes me, and that makes the effort worthwhile.

18 comments:

KBriggs said...

Although, i live in the US i come from a developing country(Bolivia)in South America.
And while i was blessed to have food every day and water to drink or medical care... AC was not something that we care as much. It was too much of a luxury, and it is found mostly in very expensive restaurants, banks and foreign companies. not even private school have AC. Anyways...this summer i am very pregnant and hot...but in my household we are trying to save money but mostly I AM trying to raise my children without some luxuries that most kids in the US have....after all, they are part of me and my side of the family doesn't see AC as a MUST HAVE in life.

Aunt LoLo said...

I'm in. When do we move to Hawaii?? ;-)

~love said...

i adore you. actually, i adore seeing Jesus through you.
america is wearing me thin, too. i feel in the constant state of let's-sell-it-all-and-GO!!! but, we're prayfully figuring it out little by little.
i'm actually convicted right now that it would almost be "easier" to go than to stay and be a witness, an educator and live it out HERE. because right now, i'm SO frustrated with HERE.
i'm totally in.

Shelley said...

This may sound weird, but I am thankful our country is suffering from this economic crisis. It helps us remember what is important and helps check our materialism. We Americans are still irresponsible with our wealth, but maybe through this time we will appreciate the overabundance we have.

jorth said...

I'm with you all the way, honey. Even when our temps this summer in Australia were hitting 47 C (116 F), we made do.

So, some handy tips from moi:

1: Block all windows early in the first day of a heatwave, to stop excess heat coming in. Sure, you have a dark house, but that's kinda nice on those boiling days.

2: Lots of home made icy poles. Lots and lots!

3: When it all gets too much, run around in nothing but your smalls. What with the blinds closed, and nobody venturing outside, you'll never get busted!

4: Fill the bath with cold water, and continually hop in and out all day long. This is a particuarly good trick for smaller children. Keeps them cool AND occupied.

Anonymous said...

OK Nicole,

You have spoken what has bothered me for a long time. We are GUILTY or over-indulgence and it surprises me that one in your age group even begins to recognize it. I appreciate air-conditioning but I have been where it isn't. The most recent example was Sri Lanka. We were there when it was cool and temps were in the 90's. We were sweating. There was no water heater so the showers, such as they were, were cool. Some how, we have to start caring about more than our own personal convenience. I don't know that it would actually work for everyone to move to Hawaii - sounds good though - but we can all be careful with the air conditioning. So, let's make a real difference, speak it out and speak it loud - let's make a challenge to cut back on airconditioning. If you can't stand it off - then set it at 80. If the air runs and cools the house - it will stay cool for awhile. It doesn't have to be set at 72 or 75 - it can be at 80. Fans are good - I usually put one in a window at night to bring in the cooler air and then shut the window in the morning. Let's put a challenge out to our church - let's see if people are willing to put a little comfort on the line (maybe donate the savings to those without a job.) I didn't say that because my son has been out of work since just after Christmas but it has bothered me to go on with things when I know so many have lost the ability to do so. I plan to economize even more than I have by not buying anything I can get along without. If we don't care enough to make some changes, who will? What will happen to all of this in the future? You have written a very good article - you should print it and send it to the Muncie newspaper. Personally, I think you are an awesome woman!
Mary G

britty said...

i love, love, love the way you think. however, i am not tough enough to brave the AZ heat sans air. when we can afford to move to Hawaii, it's done! thanks for the inspiration!

CurlyGirlD said...

Nic,

You are such a beautiful writer and such a smart, caring person. I agree wholeheartedly with the overindulgences our country has on a daily basis. And I agree we should all be willing to make a change, even if it's a small one. Could I honestly give up AC all summer? Likely no. But a day or two a week seems more than fair.

Thanks for voicing your thoughts. And as for moving to Hawaii, count me in as well. :o)

Kimberly said...

Living in the north messes with my desire to join you on this one. We had the space heaters on last night so our kiddos didn't get too cold during the night. But we shut off our furnace and gas fireplace for the summer . . .

Anonymous said...

I'm glad sacrificing your air conditioning makes you feel good about yourself, because that's all it's doing. There's not one person anywhere in the world whose life is made better by you playing a martyer.
I'm growing tired of christians complaining about this great country while at the same time choosing to live here.

nic said...

Anonymous:

i appreciate your candidness, though i do request that in the future you consider signing your name to your comment.

in retrospect, perhaps i should have been clearer in my post: in my case, the money saved in a lower energy bill is channeled directly to a non-profit org. it is my intent and fervent hope that it is being used to benefit someone.

also, i don't consider a little heat and sweat playing the martyr. i apologize if i came across as sanctimonious; i am well aware that i am deeply flawed--in fact, seeing the vastness of my own self-absorbancy is part of why i am attempting small steps to humanize someone else's life.

Lily Boot said...

totally agree. I live in Brisbane Australia which is hot and muggy for at least 6 months on the year. When I was a child we didn't even have FANS let alone air conditioners and I don't have any memories of being horribly hot - that's just how it was. Now, almost all our friends and neighbours have airconditioners roaring away day and night - those behind us have a lovely back garden (made less nice when they chopped down the 100 year old fig tree) with a cubby house and swings and trampoline for the children - but they never come outside because the house is always shut up tight so the airconditioner can work best! And here we are consuming more and more electricity, the temperature is getting hotter and drier (most of the country is in permanent drought), so we buy more airconditioners and use up more electricity so they country gets hotter and drier ... So selfish and short sighted and part of this whole "I want, and I want it now" with no consideration to our community or environment as a whole attitude that seems to be so pervasive. So what is we're hot for a few months - they're are plenty of ways you can cool down in a more gentle way - and more imaginative. My little girl enjoys a half filled bath of cool water with bubbles and she plays in their for hours! The she's nice and cooled off for bed. Hooray to no airconditioners!

simplysewn said...

I am CONVINCED (although I've never done the scientific research) that by living in the air conditioning we are actually making it feel HOTTER for our bodies when not in said air conditioning. As kids hardly anyone we knew had air conditioning. Somehow we really didn't mind except for a few of those really hot and humid days. We do have air conditioning now, but only in the bedrooms and only when it is REALLY hot. I believe that by living in the regular temperature we don't mind the heat as much as when our bodies have to adjust in temperature so much. Basically, air conditioning actually makes us hotter. Ok, only when we're not in it.

Just my two cents (or maybe in the ramble above I hit 27 cents.)

Fledgling said...

Here are some tips I picked up in some hot countries:

-- Wrapping damp washcloths around your WRISTS will really cool you down. Keep a supply of damp cloths in the refrigerator.

--Lots of small, HOT drinks. Strange, but true. Everywhere in Turkey, wherever you go (gas station, even), you will be handed a little glass of hot tea. These itty-bitty teas keep you hydrated and the warm liquid makes you feel cooler. Go figure. I also think the time it takes to sip a hot tea slows you down (and gives you a great opportunity to share some small talk with a gas station owner..).

--Alter the space/time continuum. Employ the siesta and stay inside and inactive during the hottest times of the day. Shift your activities to late at night. A family picnic and volleyball at 11:00 pm is a lot of fun.

--Hand held fans. Bring back the elegance, charm and good old fashioned snootiness of a hand fan! I like these round ones with a stick I found in Chinatown. With my fan, I'm so spiffy AND an Environmentalista! Can't beat that!

Stay cool,
Nancy

Rebekah said...

I grew up without air conditioning in the northeast US, my grandmother lives on Long Island NY and still has none. It really is a matter of how you handle it - I see this every day, as I live with a husband who grew up in AZ & shudders at the thought of no AC. We have to compromise on the AC setting - after all we do live in an area where the temps reached 108 last week, and will stay close to that throughout the summer.

There are, of course, other ways to reduce the electric bill that I have put to regular use since living here, many of which will help all year long:

- Hang your laundry to dry

- Find ways to cook everything you can on your grill, even stuff like pizza, because then you're not heating up the kitchen... crock pots are low energy consumers & keep the kitchen cool, too

- In the spring, I try to use up everything in my small deep freezer, move the last few things over to the regular freezer in the kitchen, and shut the deep freeze off until October.

- Switch lightbulbs to flourescent - even if you don't like the color they cast in regular rooms, you can use them outside & in the garage

- Unplug stuff when you're not using it - many things that have little clocks or LEDs that stay on when you are done using it (coffee maker, iron) are still using electricity while they're "off".

- Unplug your cell phone charger when it's not in use - those black boxes suck the electricity out of the wall even though your phone's not attached

- Turn off your computer & all peripherals at night

- Don't use the Heat Dry on the dishwasher

Rebekah said...

To Anonymous above - just because we see problems in our country that need fixing doesn't mean we can't say something. That's the beauty of America - we're allowed to say something is wrong & do our part to fix it, and we won't be sent to prison like in many other countries around the world.

jorth said...

I'm with you all the way, honey. Even when our temps this summer in Australia were hitting 47 C (116 F), we made do.

So, some handy tips from moi:

1: Block all windows early in the first day of a heatwave, to stop excess heat coming in. Sure, you have a dark house, but that's kinda nice on those boiling days.

2: Lots of home made icy poles. Lots and lots!

3: When it all gets too much, run around in nothing but your smalls. What with the blinds closed, and nobody venturing outside, you'll never get busted!

4: Fill the bath with cold water, and continually hop in and out all day long. This is a particuarly good trick for smaller children. Keeps them cool AND occupied.

Shelley said...

This may sound weird, but I am thankful our country is suffering from this economic crisis. It helps us remember what is important and helps check our materialism. We Americans are still irresponsible with our wealth, but maybe through this time we will appreciate the overabundance we have.