Why not take advantage of free air for cooling, laundry?Published 10:24am Thursday, May 5, 2011
Last week my niece Anne and her 4-year-old son, Mason, came to visit. Anne lives in a suburban neighborhood just inside the Baltimore, Md., beltway.
One of Mason’s favorite activities was hanging up the clothes on the clothesline. He had never done that, nor seen a clothesline. But he certainly knows what a dryer is.
I’ve been told for at least 40 years that we should have a dryer, and yet we have lived quite happily without one.
The clothesline gives me a reason to go outside when the weather is acceptable, and I’m always glad to spend a few minutes just appreciating the nature around me after the clothes are hung up.
When we were younger and money was real tight, a friend told me she estimated that a full dryer load cost about $1 in electricity.
That computed to much higher monthly electricity bills when the boys were in diapers, so we opted for a clothesline and a drying rack behind the woodstove. We have never regretted that decision, and our electric bills are minimal.
After we had hung up the clothes, Anne asked if I have a hair dryer, which I don’t. I started to think: she has never known of life without hairdryers, just as Mason has never known life without a clothes dryer.
Both these electrical items do something for money that air has done freely for eons. Air drying takes longer, and we must pay attention to expect to dry something when the air is damp (like when it’s raining).
Air is free, but we have chosen to invent devices that are easier to use, even though we have to pay in terms of monthly bills and air pollution.
The alternative would be to be dependent upon the weather. As a culture we really want to control our environment rather than have a co-dependent relationship with the environment.
I have two young men who help me with forestry work.
One warm day they quit work happy in the knowledge that they could go home and get in the air conditioning. They asked, “How can you live without air-conditioning?”
It’s easy. We open the windows and doors when we want air to cool the house, or we sit on the porch.
The house is old and was built to maximize the benefits of air to cool, or can be closed off when we do not want cooling airflow. I began to wonder if one reason why people like our house is just because of that: the doors and windows open.
I heard years ago that air pollution was the greatest threat to our planet, yet it is the least likely to be addressed because it is invisible. We understand water pollution because we can see it; we react to dead fish and erosion.
But we can’t see air pollution until it is in the form of smog, and then we blame it on the coal-fired power plants that are generating electricity for our dryers, air-conditioners and electric heat. We don’t make the connection.
Soon we will no longer have the option of opening the doors because the polluted air will harm us. Joni Mitchell’s song says, “we won’t miss what we’ve got until it is gone.”
Air gave us our first breath. It’s a gift. It’s free. We can’t live without it. Thankfully, we can live very happily with it if we accept air on its own terms.
It’s sunny and clear this morning, a good day for laundry.