Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Using the world's resources on a daily basis

Dear BabaMama (parents-in-law), when they first arrived in the U.S., had much adjusting to do. Several aspects of the design of their new apartment were not what they were used to. Staying in the apartment in Beijing that belongs to dear Wei Wei and Johnny I became aware of the convenience of certain aspects of the design of a typical chinese apartment that had been pointed out by BM.

1. Wei Wei's apartment faced east west and more importantly it had windows on both sides. When one side of the apartment is hot/cold the other side of the apartment is likely to be cooler/warmer. [BM's apartment in CT is north facing and never gets any direct sunlight. Since B is an avid house plant grower this is quite a challenge for him. But in spite of the lack of sunlight he has still managed to cultivate quite an indoor garden.]

2. There is a glassed in balcony whose main purpose seems to be for drying clothes --far more energy efficient than a dryer and in the heat of the Beijing spring the clothes were dry in a couple of hours. [M has never once used the dryer in her CT apartment. She just cannot tolerate the thought of unnecessarily wasting all that energy. Their lease for their apartment, however, forbids the drying of clothes on the balcony. It is only for outdoor furniture and a potted plant or two.]

3. The cooking area in most Chinese apartments can be completely closed off from the rest of the apartment so that the oil and smells that are generated in Chinese cooking will not disseminate throughout the apartment [The open floor plan of kitchens and living rooms in the US has been something that BM have had a very hard time getting used to]

4. The hot water heater can be plugged in as needed and usually half an hour before your shower is sufficient to get it hot hot hot. [Here in the U.S. dear M was having trouble sleeping when she first arrived as she believed she could hear the hot water tank in the little room next to their bedroom turning on in the middle of the night to heat up the water and the amount of energy being wasted to keep the water hot around the clock haunted her.]

Staying in Wei Wei's little energy efficient apartment I came to feel that this was certainly a far more advanced way to be living in an age that seems to come before a great environmental calamity. Wei Wei's apartment is actually a couple of decades old at least and unfortunately the Chinese are starting to do things in increasingly western ways instead of the other way around. For one thing, ownership of personal cars is sky rocketing to replace that wonderful army of bicycles that were so energy efficient, non-polluting and also provided so much exercise. Here is Jessie with her car. Jessie is a primary school teacher. It would have been unthinkable a decade ago that a primary school teacher in China would be able to afford a car of her own.

Perhaps one day soon the world will be forced to simplify their way of life and then we can all turn to the Chinese for ways in which to balance the conveniences of modern life with principles of thrift and energy economy.


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