Blackouts, Modernity and Climate Change

I’d scream loudly if someone were to take away my iPad. I love my smart phone. I think the idea that adults or children will suffer from using technology freely is as nonsensical as Socrates was when he thought reading and writing would ruin our brains.

Although I am old I am not against things modern.

But I am against the concept that we are loosing “entitlements” as a human race if we temporarily have to go without some comforts we have accepted as a norm in our developed society for only about the last fifty years.

Malcolm Turnbull’s statement that we have a “right to secure energy” in response to the populaces’ screams and outcries at the couple of blackouts we have recently, had to be a signal of a lack of resilience growing in our society. A society without resilience is a society doomed.

I was privileged to be a child of the Snowy Scheme. Before my father and his fellow workers and designers were moved from Sydney to actually start work in Cooma, we suffered from blackouts in Sydney almost every night in winter. My father used to point out that was why we needed the Scheme. We were exposed to the vision that energy is best produced from natural elements of which this country abounds, rather than coal. Of course everyone had the odd grizzle at the blackouts from time to time,  but we got used to having less in the small freezer part of the fridge and then eating it at the next opportunity after a blackout. We got used to doing homework by candlelight. We went to bed early and got up at sunrise. We survived well without air conditioning.

When I moved to Cooma I was surprised at the cold winters but soon got used to the different temperatures. We were “whimps” if we wore the gloves so lovingly provided by our mothers when we cycled down Two Mile Hill to get to school. We just carefully peeled our hands off the handle bars on arrival.

It sometimes was very cold on sports afternoons. Unfortunately our hockey field abutted the local cemetery. Out of politeness, if there were a funeral taking place or commenced on a sports afternoon, we had to stand still, at attention, while the celebrant said his piece before we could play again (quietly). Our sports uniform skirts were very short and it was very cold on our bare legs. No air conditioning.

There was no air conditioning in cars.

We did enjoy the open fires in our houses, however.

But then the family moved to Broken Hill on another project. (Dad was a scientist who liked holes in the ground. As an aside he taught my sister and I how to build dry stone walls too! Under the auspices of the University he worked for  in the 60s he was engaged on a project to have a property there, in those arid conditions, self sustained by only solar and wind power.)
It was quite hot in Broken Hill. I remember during one heatwave reading in the local newspaper the information that, during periods of heat, the suicide rate tripled when the temperature had not gone below a minimum of 40 degrees for over ten days – and that included nights. A compelling statistic. Advice was given about how to keep as cool as possible.

The consequence of my exposure to these extremes of temperature is that I put on more clothes in the cold, take most of them off and wipe myself down with wet washers periodically in the heat and otherwise get on with things. I have opted not to have air conditioning.

I do enjoy going into an air conditioned or heated space in extreme conditions. But I think on the eastern seaboard, where I now live, it is an indulgence to have air conditioning in every house. It should be kept for those with special needs. With shops abounding in most areas why do most of us have the need for large freezers? If one decides to have one, the risk must be accepted that in times of need it is not a power priority.

I have seen people leave fans on in an unoccupied room. We were taught in science that fans work on the principle of the “wet bulb thermometer”. There has got to be a sweaty person in the room who will notice a temperature difference!

Do we really want to save the planet?

If so we need to build a society with greater resilience, greater co-operation. Each one of us does not need to live at a temperature of a steady 22 degrees, which I have been told by many is the ideal temperature. We need to accept some days will be hotter or colder than others.

On days when power is getting low, how about rostering suburbs or other sections of the community to turn off air conditioning or stoves for set periods of time? How about we stagger our dinner hour or, in periods of very extreme temperature, organise some cold (or tepid!) meals?

Obviously hospitals should be exempt from restrictions and should be kept powered at all times and other such exemptions spring to mind. But businesses? They can take turns to cut their profits in extreme weather conditions. After all climate change will effect them most of all. An overheated planet may be able to support a few resilient species including a few humans but it will no longer be supporting big businesses.

But above all keep our children resilient. Let them be exposed to both hot and cold. Tell them, as our mothers’ did us, that they cannot huddle up to a heater bare armed – first they must put on a jumper, if they are still cold another piece of warm clothing goes on top. After that a heater might be considered. As for heat – a couple of runs under the sprinkler is great for them and the garden simultaneously. In water restriction time just a rub down with a wet cloth.

Not only should we be limiting emissions to try to stop climate change and do this by wanting a focus on non polluting energy production and by requiring others to stop overuse of resources, but it also means not over indulging ourselves personally. Building natural resilience to our weather conditions needs to be an essential if humanity is to survive.

Luckily an iPhone does not draw a lot of energy to recharge.


About Anne Powles

I am retired from paid employment. During my working life I have been variously and sometimes contemporaneously, wife, mother of four, lawyer, teacher and psychologist. I have also been a serial education junkie. As are we all, I have been an observer of the world around me. Here I have recorded some of my memories, observations and theorisings.
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2 Responses to Blackouts, Modernity and Climate Change

  1. toukleytonic says:

    Dear Anne in praise of your blog, I will stop ironing my handkerchiefs. They are a strange habit in modern times, but at least they are not disposable paper. Cheers

  2. Anne Powles says:

    I had not realised that I was practising what I’m preaching in my refusal to iron hankies. I will now take credit for this habit!

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