Friday, January 11, 2013

Cooling the earth, one shower, one dirty dish at a time.

The reality of climate change is grounded in science and the cause and effects are now firmly established. It's a daunting reality of a terrifying magnitude. The problem is the perception that there isn't much that individuals can do, and that this is a problem for governments and big corporations to resolve.
One doesn't have to be a Gates or a Buffett to make a difference in the lives of other people; one doesn't have to be an oil company to make a difference in the natural environment. A personal effort may just be a drop in a bucket but it's also true that an ocean is made up of many drops of water. 
The following are two observations on the minimal use of water, and the ramifications if such an attitude were adopted en masse.

In many parts of the Philippines, where adequate potable water is an issue, here is how one takes a shower, either with a shower head or scooped from a barrel using a tin can. 
You get just enough water on you to produce a lather from your soap. As water goes down, you vigorously rub as much body area as you can to get water to it. This could be a slow shower trickle but the tin can method is preferable since you can direct/splash the water to specific parts of your body.  To moisten the soap, you dip it in the tin can of water instead of wetting your body again. You use vigorous scrubbing to clean your skin, instead of water pressure. Finally, you rinse with the same slow shower/tin can pouring accompanied by scrubbing to wash away the soap. The key here is that cleaning is accomplished with scrubbing, and not water pressure. 
While you're at it, use this time to meditate by being mindful of your actions, being aware of every splash of water, every rub, every stroke. Try doing this in the dark as well, to heighten the awareness.
Contrast this method with our usual way of taking a shower as in this shower-head commercial.

I observed this as a member of the Mono Mills United Church, a typical country congregation whose members are mostly seniors or younger who grew up with parents traumatized by the Great Depression. Roast beef, spaghetti, and BBQ chicken suppers in our church basement to raise badly-needed funds are communal affairs that every one looks forward to.
This method of washing dishes may already be familiar to some people but here it is. Once again, the key is scouring off every visible trace of food, soaking the dishes in the first sink filled with hot water, very dilute bleach, and a trace amount of soap. Use a washcloth to wipe off the last trace of food particle, then rinsed in the next sink filled with hot water. Dishes are drained on a rack and air dried, if time and space permits it.
Note that there is no running water involved in the process. One session could easily do the dishes from a group of 50 people, glasses and utensils included. The more people are involved, the merrier.

The key to conserving our resources and saving our planet is doing what you need to do, not what you want to do. This idea of minimalism, if carried into other areas of our lives and pursued intuitively as second nature (an acquired behaviour or trait that is so long practiced as to seem innate), by as many people as possible, will be like billions of drops in the ocean.

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