31 August 2006

Fire and Ice

Here's something I wrote last summer:

It has been so hot here lately. The other day power went out in suburbs all over the city. The sky was filled with the smoke of bushfires.

The newspaper the next day carried a front page story about how outraged people were that the power went out.

I'm not sure what they expect. Sure, it's a pain in the arse when the power goes out. But the power always goes out in a heatwave, because everyone's using air-conditioning and other electrical things more to keep cool.

Thing is, the houses here are fucked. They're not built to suit the climate. There are McHouses with paper thin walls, houses with no insulation, houses with the sun blaring in huge windows.

No one is equipped to deal with extreme temperature changes. No one demands when they buy a house that it's energy efficiant. We all rely on electricity far more than we need to.

I wish people would quit bitching and try to work on ways to reduce the need for air-conditioners.

I thought I'd left the bushfires behind in Oldtown, exchanged them for cyclones. Not so. The last few days, I've looked outside at a sky grey with smoke drifting off the hills. The bushfires come in winter here, when the hills are brown and dry.

We still see houses that exist only with the help of airconditioners. The older ones are bad, but the new ones - you simply couldn't live in them during summer without air-con. But I've hardly noticed any blackouts - not like the regular ones in Oldtown. The energy use is consistently high here, it doesn't peak and trough so much.

When we came here I was expecting the houses to be all wooden, with verandas around all four sides to keep the sun out. Well, the majority are wooden. But very few seem to know what a veranda is. And this town is growing fast - and all the new houses are McHouses, concrete boxes facing the sun with no eaves, no way of keeping cool.

The weather here at the moment is perfect. But the shops and public buildings keep the air-con blasting like a fridge. I have to remember to take a jumper with me when I go to the supermarket - the only time one would need a jumper up here. Why keep it so cold inside you get goose bumps? It doesn't make sense.

I just don't understand why no one cares. Surely, even if you don't care about the environment, it would make economic sense to be energy efficient.


Stinkypaw said...

I'm always amaze at how we (all over the world) don't give a rat's ass about energy conservation! Yes here we build houses with winter in mind, we don't really have a choice, but still, I find it fascinating to see some new houses with windows all around... talk about a waste of energy, and yet... I'm always cold no matter the season, and I have goosebumps just thinking that we are about to enter our cold season really soon... yuck!

I hope the bushfires are not that close to you and I'm not sure I'd exchange them for cyclones? Really? Never experienced neither so...

Maegen said...

While our homes in America aren't so energy efficient, I'm astonished by the houses here. When my mom was here, she couldn't tell the difference btn a house falling apart and a house being built. They do look a lot alike.

Here, homes are thrown together with cinderblock. Some of the nicer places in my region get a very thing layer of insulation on the outside, but mostly they just lather on some concrete and paint! It's actually great for the summer, letting in very little heat. But the winters are awful. All the heat goes right out.

Bulgaria's heating situtation doesn't cause as much of an energy problem as it does environmental. Most homes here are heated with coal furnaces or wood burning stoves. It's awful when you live in a valley!

hasarder said...

I know what you mean about wood fires in a valley, Maegen. It was like that where I grew up. You couldn't tell the smoke from the fog!