Errant European

Tancarville
Tancarville

I certainly hope so, since I played a small part in helping the man get elected last year. But a recent trip to the US makes me pause. This appeared first in my other blog, Avuncular American.

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Les culottes à l’air, or airing the Unmentionables

Cheapskate that I am, I am milking the Financial Times that they gave me on the airplane last weekend for all it’s worth. My favorite piece: “A woman’s fight to air her dirty laundry,” by Matthew Engel:

Carin Froehlich of Perkasie [PA] has been warned not to dry her laundry on a clothesline outside, following two complaints from neighbours. “They said it made the place look like trailer trash. They said they did not want to look at my unmentionables.”

I grew up a few miles away from Perkasie Pennsylvania, which was not known at the time as a hoity-toity high-rent town. Like my mother, I’d say lots of 1950s and ’60s Perkasie mommies dried their clean laundry in the breezy Bucks County air, and it was brought in smelling a whole lot fresher than today’s stuff, hot out of the clothes dryer. The combination of puritan disdain for public display of underwear is combined with a new snobbery which sweeps the untidiness of life behind the idiot buttons of modern machinery.

A wide screen TV in every room

Last weekend’s conference in Boston was in a high-rise chain hotel, and my room was a standard-issue high energy use model: air conditioning only (windows do not open), down duvets to keep you warm (see AC, set at Arctic default), and wide screen HDTVs – I mean really wide, like 50 inches – in every one of their thousand plus rooms.

My point is this: my fellow Americans are hooked, in ways that they can’t even begin to appreciate, on a high energy lifestyle, one that almost unquestioningly accepts new “musts” that are ever more gluttonous of CO2 producing energy.

When hotels feel that they must offer ever bigger screens for the business traveler to watch 10 minutes of news, or when municipalities prohibit citizens from using wind energy to dry their laundry, it’s simply an illustration of American gas guzzling that goes way beyond the size of SUV in your garage (I take that back; few Americans can park their cars in the garage, it being taken up by the overflow of junk from their MacMansions, or their ordinary suburban split levels). Is there any hope for a Copenhagen conversion to a more reasonable lifestyle?

Engels of the FT (who brought his non-electric outdoor “Hills Hoist” clothes dryer to the States) mentions Project Laundry List, those of The Right To Dry. Simply drying your clothes outside or on a rack (ours, pictured above, is the French model, called a “Tancarville,” after the Seine bridge of similar shape) could save the United States some six percent of its electricity consumption. Think of all the savings to households, let alone the dent that would make in our Saudi oil import bill. And the millions of carbon tons not spewed into the atmosphere. Clothes would actually smell better too, and whites would remain white instead of turning clothes dryer gray.

Before Cheney made conservation a dirty word

Until the Boy Scouts of America dumped it for more esoteric disciplines, they used to have the “Conservation” Merit Badge. That was before former VP Dick Cheney, leading the secret energy policy task force upon taking office in 2001, ridiculed the notion of conservation and pushed production – and consumption.

Cheney is gone, but his climate change denial is still with us: this week we learned that among Republicans, the percentage of those “who believe that climate change is happening is down sharply — 76 to 54 percent,” according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll.

I write this on “Black Friday,” the new American feast day to the God of Consumption. It’s enough to make Smokey Bear – and this old Boy Scout – cry.

Conservation Merit Badge
Conservation Merit Badge
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