Thursday, January 9, 2014

On a very practical level, why we need to work to fight climate change ….

Although I know people will continue to deny it (for whatever reason - fear, denial, stupidity), I think most reasonably intelligent, observant people will notice that weather patterns are changing.  We are having unprecedented floods, snow, cold, heat, hurricanes, storms, winds.  We are seeing it.  We are experiencing it.  And it is not a blip, it's not going to get better soon.  We have a new world.  And we have to deal with it.

This new weather is a problem because it puts a strain on our infrastructure.  That in turn puts a strain on the economy.  Having floods like Calgary had this summer puts a huge strain on the economy of the city and the province.  Having cold in North America like we've had this past week puts a strain on the economy as well.  Individuals suffer, but the economy takes a big hit.

Now, the more events we have, the more the economy gets dinged.  And the more the economy gets dinged, the less able we will be to take care of the infrastructure that we need to continue living like we do.

Here is where the real, personal impact will be felt.  If we have enough severe weather, our economy won't be able to fund the fixing of the problems any more.  We will head into economic and infrastructure collapse.  And with that, we lose electricity and gas.

Now think of that.  A lot of people over Christmas experienced what it was like to lose electricity for a few days.  A huge inconvenience, to be sure, but it was only a few days.  What happens, to you, on a personal level, without electricity at all?

Let's take a walk around the house, shall we, and see how not having electricity could affect a person on a very basic level?  And let's face it, a lot of what I'm talking about would affect women particularly.

The laundry room:  well, for one thing, my laundry room is in a dark basement that only has one very small window (because we put it there - when the house was built, there were lots of them, but someone filled them all in).  We actually can't see anything in the basement without some source of light - usually electrical.  With no electricity, we have no washing machine and no dryer, without electricity and gas, we have no hot water.  So to wash clothes, you need to heat water on an alternate heat source and wash all your articles by hand (believe me, you wouldn't want to do it in cold water).  If you consider how much laundry you have each week, you could easily spend a couple of days washing clothes.  And then you'll have to hang them inside (if you live where I do) to dry them.  Let's face it, you're going to start wearing your clothes a lot longer if it takes that much effort to launder them.  So you are not going to smell as fresh as you are used to and a full day of your week is probably going to be spent washing your family's clothes.  The flimsy clothes we tend to have these days aren't going to stand up for a really long time, so you might want to learn to sew - if you can find a sewing machine that does not require electricity.  And you can buy fabric somewhere.

The basement:  the forced air furnace will not work without electricity, even if you have gas.  So you need an alternate source of heat - that isn't electric.  I have a very small fireplace.  It does very little to heat the house.  It might keep it from freezing.  It might keep one room warm.  But it will not keep the pipes from freezing - however, we might not have water.  The freezer will go out - but here in the winter we just have to put the food outside.

The kitchen:  the fridge - if you don't have a fridge, you can't keep food fresh.  Here we can put it outside, but it will freeze - okay for some things, but not for others.  You might be able to get ice (maybe) to put in a cooler, but even then, you won't have the space for fresh food that you are used to.  So you will have to spend a lot more time grocery shopping (assuming that there is food in stores to buy).  You'll probably have to shop every day if you expect fruit, vegetables and meat like you get nowadays.
The stove - if you have a gas stove, you might be okay as long as natural gas is still being pumped to your house.  If you have an electrical stove, you're hooped.  I can roast hotdogs on my fire, but it would be a huge hassle to try and make anything else.
The dishwasher - yeah, forget it.  It is now a cupboard.  Dishes will have to be washed by hand, with the hot water being heated over the gas stove (if you're lucky), or the fireplace (if you're unlucky), or the barbecue if you still have propane.  Washing dishes by hand takes a long time.  Trust me, I remember - I grew up in a house without one.  Your kids will learn how to wash and dry dishes.

You'll have no entertainment.  None.  We no longer know how to have entertainment without electricity (okay don't give me the flack about how you know how to read or play games - most of it is electrical - face it).  You're going to have to re-create non-electrical entertainment.  Pull out the musical instruments, the books, the board games.  This is the one area where it might be a good thing to lose electricity.

Communications - Yeah.  Well, do I really have to point it out.  We're down to the manually written word for communications.

Lighting - candles?  We have several coal oil lamps in the house that work very well, but one needs fuel.  I suspect people would go back to more natural rhythms and sleep when it's dark, wake when it's light.

Bathing?  Heat water on your little fire, get enough water to wash yourself off. You're not going to want to do it every day - it's a lot of effort.  So, again, you're going to smell differently.

So with some of the very basics covered here, you could see that a lot of time is going to be taken up keeping fires burning, cooking, washing dishes, washing clothes - the basics.  Little House on the Prairie type of stuff.

If we don't work to solve this problem, I'm afraid this is what we are going to face.  And this is only a very small part of the puzzle.  So we need to act.

How do we act?  Well, I don't have all the answers, but globally we need to move away from fossil fuels and towards alternate forms of energy.  We also need to improve efficiency with any items that use energy.  Period.  We need to do this.  As individuals, we can improve our consumption and really question what we need to have a happy life.  As a society we need to change some of the rules of the game.

Use less.

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