Friday, February 24, 2012

Winter Thoughts on Energy

Kerosene Heaters do have their merits and satisfy a primordial need to cook on fire
When something doesn't work the obvious solution is to try something else. As I freeze my tootsies off in yet another winter in my very expensive rental house with its outrageous electricity bills, I wonder at the lack of insulation and the single panes of glass that allow in drafts despite doors shut and windows in lock-down. The house breathes but it also lets every yen of heat escape.

Conversation turned to energy conservation at cooking class yesterday. I felt the months of winter's cold, the difficulties of staying warm, and extra work involved in lugging kerosene and filling heaters, boil over. Yes, energy conservation is necessary in terms of how we live in the way that energy is used, but a couple of solar panels on the house do not make up for a house that allows the wind to blow out every bit of warmth. A house has to be designed to take advantage of its location and then to hold onto the the heat or in summer the cool air. My outrage is because these things are possible though not in wide useage here in Japan. Perhaps we fail at these things in the States as well, but it is here that I have lived and suffered winter's whims these past five years.

I drive my car more than my Japanese friends and with that I get a few pangs of guilt that I should be walking and biking more than I do. I am always pressed for time so the car is the solution at the ready for me. There is a flicker of thought that bridging two cultures is part of the problem as well that I am doing too much. So there, I am not so much better myself in addressing obvious solutions to change. I do bridge two cultures as I have feet planted in both worlds- American and Japanese- and these worlds are forty-five minutes apart. I do "do" too much. Here is the inroad I should seek to address but I love all of the things I do so I can't see my way to give them up, well, I'd be happy to give up laundry, cleaning, and organizing, but that seems unlikely.

My powers of concentration intensify with my interest. My husband's constant refrain is that when I am focused on something I am oblivious to all else like a child playing with Lego sets in an imaginary world. So it is. Truly we've both learned that if we turn from what we are doing, it will be a long time before we get back to it. My son will disregard bodily signals to go to the bathroom when he is engaged in play to the point that he almost or does have an accident. When I worked in the hospital, I would stay on my tasks ignoring my own hunger pains and some calls for my attention to complete long complex tasks because it was too hard to get back to them. A nurse in the hospital has numerous interruptions. Those interruptions takeaway from the quality and detail of work and I suppose for a child, the joy and interest of play. I love uninterrupted time but it seems as though that gift is only given to us in childhood summer days to appreciate later.

Having had frostbite on my toes from living in a too cold house combined with having Raynaud's Phenomena in a temperate climate, I can appreciate and see the need for serious change in the way houses are built in Japan and elsewhere. A heater with a digital eye that blows the heat or cool air to where you are is an insufficient answer. Crumbs do not make the pie. Small steps are better than no steps, but if Japan and the world are to give up nuclear energy we must make many and more grand turns toward change. For that solar panel to be effective, our needs much match it's output.