August 5, 2014

The Cost of Comfort. ~ Peter Gyulay

clothesline on beach

It’s 63 degrees outside, a nice cool and breezy night.

All of the air-conditioners in the neighborhood are churning at full speed…why?

I’m from Australia and have been staying with family in Chicago for almost six months now. I still can’t believe that many Americans leave their air-conditioners on all day and all night for the entirety of summer. It’s often so cold inside where I’m staying that I have to put on a sweater or nestle in a thick blanket. Yes, I do run cold.

But how cold should a house be in summer?

Without a bit of heat, you don’t even know it’s summer. What’s the point of the seasons if we don’t even experience them?

Even when it’s not hot, the air-con is on because it seems it must remain on until the “official” end of summer time. Then for perhaps but a few weeks the house can just be as it is, without the need to artificially alter the temperature. But then when the air starts to cool, the heaters will be turned on because putting on a sweater is just too much trouble and too uncomfortable.

I mean isn’t it our right as human beings to be able to rest in our homes, clad in summer clothes all year round?

To hell with the environment, and to hell with all those homeless, starving people in the future whose homes and livelihoods have been lost to the rising sea levels! That’s got nothing to do with me and my need for comfort!

Another shocking fact about American life that I’ve noticed: at some point in time, clothes lines became just too “uncivilized” or just too much work. And now, even in the heat of summer, many Americans dry their clothes inside in a clothes dyer. Yes, those of you reading this from somewhere else in the world, it’s true. Even on a 100 degree day, the clothes dyer will be working away.

Here’s some news: the sun can dry clothes free of charge and without using any energy. But if you happen to live in a pretentious place that forbids clothes line, you can dry your clothes inside.

Get a clothes rack, or do what I have been doing: just lay the clothes on the bed. Yes, they dry. Clothes have an amazing ability to dry themselves.

And one last thing to moan about: toilet paper. Lots of people are unwilling to use recycled toilet paper, and the same is true in Australia. Are our butts that precious that they demand toilet paper with the texture of silk? Yes, recycled toilet paper is rough but so is living in a world without trees, so lets think a bit harder and then take our pick.

These are just a few examples of how the comforts that people think they so desperately need have negative effects on the world. It seems clear to me that in order to protect the environment and protect the lives of future generations, there need to be some things that the affluent give up. It’s not enough to say, “well I recycle so I’m doing my bit for the planet.”

But why, you may ask, should I feel guilty about my lifestyle? Aren’t we all entitled to live however we wish to? We live in a democracy don’t we?

Yes guilt is a forbidden word these days and we dare not punish ourselves with such an “archaic” emotion. We should never feel guilty about anything, just live our lives and have no regrets.

Well I will dare to say that we should feel guilty sometimes. A bit of guilt can be a great motivator for getting us up off our asses to do something about something wrong in the world that we are playing a part in.

The feeling of guilt is a natural human emotion that arises when we realize we have done or are doing something wrong. Of course getting paralyzed by guilt is another thing, because it often leads to nothing but wallowing in our own mistakes. But recognizing something we are doing wrong, feeling bad about it and as a result changing it, is good.

The environmental problems and indeed many of the other problems in the world today, such as the economic disparities that plague the world, are very much connected to our concern for our own safety, prosperity and comfort, and our apathy towards others. If this planet is to evolve, this needs to change. We have to extend our gaze beyond our care for ourselves and families, to caring for our community, society, fellow humanity, and planet—including the animals it sustains.

Instead of waiting for revolutionary changes that may happen in solar energy and such (those are left to the few that are gifted with the intelligence to make that happen) we can, one and all, make little changes in our lives. And it’s not just about making little changes that will have a rippling effect. It is about changing the focus of our lives and re-centering them around doing good for the world, so that my main purpose is no longer how to improve my own life, but how I can contribute to the world.

Some basic examples that are part of this endeavor are: valuing trees more than our rear-ends by using recycled toilet paper, and valuing a healthy planet by sun-drying our clothes and limiting our use of cooling and heating in the house.



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Editor: Renée Picard

Photo: cjuneau at Flickr

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