Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Unthinkable

I started writing this as a comment, in answer to a comment, and it kind of started to grow.. so I'm putting it here.

Alina, I don't think you're off topic. One of the points I hope to make is that our lives are greatly more interconnected than we realize most of the time. Not all the connections are straight lines, or obvious, but they're real.

The growth of airconditioning is a prime example of how we find ourselves on a planet with so many problems. Nobody got the elders together and asked, "should we all get airconditioners?" It just grew up- because it became possible- then profitable.

NOBODY thought about it. We just let it happen.

Unintended, unexpected consequences are killing us. Notice I don't say "are going to kill us" - there are already people dying from global warming, have been for years now; we just hate saying that out loud.

This is also a fine example of "we have not yet begun to think."

All the furor about desperately needing to switch to sustainable, non-carbon based energy sources has folks running about like an ant hive stirred up by a bear.

But we don't really think- about ALL the possibilities.

If it's that urgent, why don't we outlaw airconditioning? (Among many other things.)

Ok, the thud you just heard was 4 CEO's of airconditioning corporations having strokes.

I doubt they're actually in any danger.

But. Why not? 50 years ago, almost no one in the world had a personal air conditioner. Could we live without them? Obviously, it's possible. It would be a huge societal dislocation at this point, but so will all the remedies we're talking about; at least the ones with some chance of not being pure fantasy. Folks in Florida and Arizona would scream bloody murder, of course.

But. Think about it- SHOULD we be building cities in the paths of hurricanes; and where there is no water?

My imaginary elders would be looking at us in amazement, I suspect. "What were you THINKING!? Nobody in their right mind would build cities there!!" We have been, of course, and continue to, and it seems an automatic assumption that therefore, we should rebuild them after hurricanes, pump water over mountains, and burn coal to run airconditioners, so we can maintain them. Maybe it's time to beat our airconditioners into sun shades.

We, as a culture, do a huge number of vastly wasteful things- that we COULD do without. If we were seriously worried.

Here's a calculation for someone to do, that I have not seen bandied about yet: what is the cost, in gallons of gasoline per day, of airconditioning in cars? In the USA? In the world? (I'd do it myself, should take about 6 hours to dig out the info, but I've got a well to fix.)

Of course it costs energy to run the airconditioner in the car. I'll guarantee you, the annual gasoline burned to run airconditioners will turn out to be a startling number.

There's an energy expenditure we all lived without; until fairly recently. Now it's unthinkable to live without it.

Unthinkable. So we don't.

I think we have to.

And the first thing that caught my eye after I finished this post was:

Cities at Risk

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Greenpa, I love this blog, I love the name of it (huge Little House freak here) and I love what you're doing. Please keep writing.

Bryan West said...

Using some Very Rough assumptions:
cars worldwide = 600 000 000
average daily car mileage = 40m
average car fuel consumption = 27.5mpg
average increase in fuel consumption when using air con = 7.5% (the figures I found varied from 2%-18%)

...656 250 000gallons

or for us more metric antipodeans, that's 2 483 906 250 litres, or enough fuel for quite a road trip..
Bryan