Wednesday August 31, 2005

On a hot and humid day like today my normal survival approach is to turn the fans on full, adjust the ventilation to draw air from the north side of the house to the south, draw the blinds, and slop around waiting for things to cool down. Short of investing in air conditioning for the house and polluting this poor planet of ours more than I do already, there’s not much else to do. It works pretty well, and I take comfort that people have been and still are coping adequately with high summer for thousands of years by similar means, without reaching for technology of the destructive kind.

I’ve been wrestling with the problem of air conditioning for years, whether to install, or whether to seek an alternative, more ecologically sound means of making my home comfortable in hot weather. It’s not a matter of finance. I could easily afford to go out and buy a state of the art air conditioning system, install it, and by means of a bit of budgetary adjustment, run it through the hot months. And then sit back in my artificially cool home, put my feet up and pretend that the rest of the world doesn’t exist.

Sadly, many if not most homes are not designed and constructed adequately to handle extremes of heat and cold. Windows are too large, and ventilation is given no more than a second thought. Insulation is often poorly designed and installed, too. In those circumstances, who can sensibly criticise the people who live in them, and can afford it, for installing and running an air conditioner for the summer, and turning up the heat in winter? And who can help but feel a great sympathy for those condemned by circumstance to live in such accommodation without the means to do so? Every year there are reports of deaths from extremes of heat and cold.

I don’t have a solution that anyone would find acceptable but I can’t help observing that, for the cost of a handful of stealth bombers and a couple of squadrons of fighter-bombers, a massive programme of refurbishment and creation of proper, sustainable housing could be established, and carried through. And levees built and maintained properly.

On an individual level, there are few of us in the Western world who couldn’t do a bit more to help conserve energy and protect the environment. I’m doing what I can but I know full well I could do more, and plan to do so.

Having said that, when I’d got through the day today, cleaning and tidying, seeing one agent off and setting up with another, I was hot, flustered, and not at all comfortable. And when it was all done, I hopped into the car to drive the two miles to Spilsby, and turned the air conditioning up as far as it would go. So far that, when I parked in the town square by the fish’n’chip shop, my spectacles misted up as I got out of my lovely, cold car into a very steamy evening. Shameless, I am, I admit it. Totally, inexcusably shameless.



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