As I have mentioned before, we only turn on the air conditioning when people are sleeping around here, as there are both security and a noise issues with having the windows open. One of the perks of the west side of Los Angeles is that the weather is cool enough and certainly dry enough to make it feasible to take this step towards energy conservation.
So, you can imagine my anxiety when I realized that the mother dropping her son off to play with Zachary would be arriving during Benjamin’s nap time. When the air conditioning is on. What would she think of me? Would it be like the dirty looks people give to the other shoppers who fail to bring canvas bags to the grocery store?
Don’t get me wrong. I know plenty of people around here use their air conditioners. But this particular mother is also the author of this book. I kind of figured she probably was not cranking up the A/C on a regular basis.
So, when she sat down on the couch and said, “Oh, that air conditioning feels nice,” I hung my head in shame.
“I was so anxious about having you over,” I admitted. “Really, we don’t usually use the air conditioner.”
“But you’re pregnant,” she said, rather charitably. “You need to be comfortable.”
I rushed to explain about only using it when people are sleeping, sounding, I fear, a bit defensive. She assured me she was just enjoying it because they don’t usually use theirs (huge shock), but I was mortified just the same.
“We all do what we can,” she said, again being diplomatic in my 73 degree house. Of course, that is untrue. Some people do not do what they can. There are people who drive giant vehicles they do not need; there are people who fly in private jets; there are people in certain large white houses on Pennsylvania Avenue who spit on the environment every day.
But there are others of us. Those of us who realize that our ecological footprint is not going to disappear in its entirety but try our best to minimize our negative impact on the planet. People who think about purchases not just in terms of dollars but in terms of landfills. Legions of Prius drivers out to lower greenhouse gases, one mile at a time.
We strive to be better, but we also need to recognize that there are limits on how much we can accomplish. Many of those limits are geographical. Here in L.A., I hang out my laundry instead of using a drier. This is not much of a hardship (beyond the time it takes to hang all those tiny socks) because I live in a desert. Once upon a time, however, I lived in a swamp.
I am here to tell you that hanging out laundry to dry in Washington, D.C. is pretty much an exercise in futility. In fact, hanging laundry outside during the summer is more likely to result in considerably wetter clothing than just throwing them in a sopping wet heap into your drawer. The nation’s capital does, however, have an excellent public transportation system.
Each locale has its own compromises. Here in L.A., I drive more than I have anywhere else (except when I commuted between two states – long story). Yet, I can count on ocean breezes to cool my house, a desert sun to dry my clothes, and fresh, local produce to feed my family.
In Philadelphia, I could walk to buy my groceries and train into work, but we used a hell of a lot of gas to heat our house each winter.
The best we can do is accept the limitations of our geography and then try to avail ourselves of environmental advantages when we can. Sure, I can try to limit how much I drive, but in L.A., my energies are much better spent hanging little socks in the sun.
And then there are those whack jobs who bike all winter long in Madison, WI. Bless their hearts – someone’s gotta get frostbite for the environment.
And, my question is this — what are the ecological pros and cons of where you live? I’d like to invite all those who haven’t commented before to comment today (if you are so inclined). I just don’t want anyone feeling unwelcome to comment here.