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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Unplugging the Earth

Today I was writing an article about Earth Day and my experience in a rally in the first Earth Day in 1970. My recollections were a little dim, so I called a friend who was there also. Her husband, an engineer at a nuclear power plant, answered the phone and we chatted a few minutes before I asked for her cell phone number. One of the things we chatted about was the sagging economy and he ended the conversation by laughingly saying "keep your air conditioner on all summer" to which I replied "ok, I'll keep it on ... on 80."

Now I know he was joking, and I also know they keep their air conditioner pretty high, but it did make me think. While many people do all they can to conserve energy, there are just as many who don't. I have several friends who keep the heat high in winter and the air conditioner low in summer. They have the money to easily pay for it. I have other friends who also keep the air conditioner low in summer, even when they are at work all day, and they struggle to pay the electric bill. They also eat a lot of prepackaged foods and produce a lot of trash, yet don't change their ways. For all of them, it's about convenience and their own comfort.

I suppose we do have the money to keep the air conditioner low in summer if we wished, but we don't. For one thing, I'd rather put money in my savings account than in the electric company's account, and for another, I don't like using electricity that contributes to polluting our planet. I sometimes wonder how people survived summers here before refrigerated air conditioning, and wearing long sleeves, long skirt, and petticoats at that. Compared to their discomfort, it is nothing to set my air conditioner a bit higher than is really comfortable.

I grew up in a small town in the Texas panhandle, at a time when few people had refrigerated air conditioning. Most people, our family included, had evaporative coolers, aka swamp coolers. They looked a lot like refrigerated window units except they were much bigger and had straw pads on the sides. The bottom was filed with water and a water pump poured water down the straw pads. In the dry climate there, it was comfortable, and didn't draw a lot of electricity. However, they don't work in the humidity in this part of Texas. The one drawback with those coolers is that they had to be installed at one end of the house, usually the south side, and a window or door at the other end of the house had to be open, using normal breezes to pull the cool air through the house. That south window was in my bedroom, which meant I could never close my bedroom door in summer. As a tempermental adolescent, it was difficult to storm off to my room when I couldn't slam the door behind me - kind of took the fervor out of it.

Now, back to my recollections of the first Earth Day, I called my friend, and she couldn't remember any more than I could. So I called my mother, and she didn't remember the rally, but she did remember the teacher who encouraged our participation in the rally. This teacher was great, and I remember burying all kinds of stuff in the backyard to see how long it took to decompose. My mother remembers me digging up her peony bed. Oops.

Of all the things we buried, I was most surprised that nylon hose were mostly intact six months later. That was before pantyhose and the hosiery was silky, thin, and less stretchy than today's pantyhose, and it often took nothing more than bending to pop a runner that quickly spread from top to bottom. They had a thick thigh band and were held up by garters attached to a garter belt. If young people today think pantyhose are a nuisance, they should give garter belts and nylon hose a try. After that experiment, I became an avid opponent of litter, and insisted that everyone in my family use a trash can instead of the highway. My mother remembers me shouting "litterbug" out the car window at strangers. Well, they were. I don't shout from car windows anymore, but I still think it.

Until next time, may you have blessings and a love of earth,

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