Tuesday, July 7, 2009

family trumps

My daughter was born in the fall of 2006. In 2007 we had a particularly hot summer, and we actually bought a huge AC unit, much to my wife's and my environmental chagrin, but while we weren't thrilled at the prospect of all that energy and freon, we were still less thrilled at the idea of subjecting an infant who couldn't yet speak let alone turn on a fan to the incredible heat of our little sunbaked Victorian cottage.

This summer we have no AC. We have three units, two for the upstairs bedrooms and the one for downstairs (which we'll probably never use again, not least because it is incredibly loud - you get what you pay $200 for), but we're not using them. We called the city last summer and signed up for their tree planting program, where they'll put a tree in the part of your front lot that's actually city property, and by the fall we had a 15' baby oak tree in front of our house. In about 30 years it will lend excellent shade to this little house, decreasing the need for AC in hot weather. This summer we put up heavy curtains in our downstairs to lock out the sun during the hottest parts of the day, and we have two window fans that create a cross-draft upstairs to vent the hot air out at the end of the day before we go to bed. 

One problem remains, however, and that's the car. When it's a sunny 30º outside, 40º with humidity, I am still hard-pressed to impose a no AC rule on our toddler when we're getting into a 50º car. It doesn't seem humane. I can talk myself into enjoying the heat for a bit if I'm alone and until the wind chases the hot air out, but I just can't do it when my family's baking too. I don't have a solution for this, other than to run it for as long as it takes to cool and dry and the car, then turn it off and just run the fan with the vents closed so the cool air circulated for a bit. We park in the shade whenever we can, and we bought one of those tacky-looking shiny things to put inside the front windshield, but still... 

What this post is about, though, is the fact that we all have some common obstacles when it comes to going green, and I believe one of the biggest is family. We may be able to convince ourselves to suffer through the consequences of the decisions made over the last century by doing things like living without AC, trying to live vegetarian (a stunning documentary about the way we use water, called Watery Road to Hell, details, among other things, the incredible amount of water it takes to "make" meat - visit http://www.waterfootprint.org/), or walking the 3km to the pool instead of driving (saving 14.4kg of CO2 - 2.4kg for each km - MNR, 2007) , we do not feel like it's fair or kind to rope our loved ones into these pursuits.

The irony, of course, is that being kind now, in the short-term, may actually be being unkind in the long-term, since making decisions that are not good for the Earth will ultimately render the planet even less friendly to our species, and thus to our children and our children's children... wanting our children not to be too hot today may mean that they are faced with even more dire decisions when they have children of their own. I know this with my head, but when I look my little one in the face as I buckle her into her carseat, I can't do anything but try to meet her immediate needs.