Too hot? Too cold?

by Dr Bob Rich

Don’t reach for the thermostat yet.

You can save a huge amount of electricity, gas, firewood or whatever your temperature-control energy source is and yet live a good life.

Let me tell you a story. After all, it is one of my favourite pastimes. In the 1970s, I worked for a research organisation that received funding to reduce staff turnover at remote mining communities in Australia’s tropical areas. Poring over the records soon revealed that there were three kinds of employees: single men, men who left their families behind and took regular breaks to be home with them, and men who brought their families with them.

The first two kinds lasted at the job without much trouble. The culprits were the third kind.

On-site observation showed that the men and children soon got adapted to the heat, but the wives never did. They went from air-conditioned house in air-conditioned car to air-conditioned shops and things. Each time they emerged into the real world, the heat punched them in the face. So, they soon started nagging their husbands to go.

The research team’s solution used the mighty force of greed. The wives were paid to play tennis out in the heat.

Staff turnover reduced.

I remember a second story from my teenage years. One of my addictions was reading, and by 17, I’d read everything in the school library, and in the local public library. This included everything, even encyclopaedias. And there was interesting stuff about Antarctic explorers. One mob were pulling their sleds across the snow and ice — no sissy stuff like dogs for them, they did the pulling themselves — when a heatwave caught them. The temperature rose almost to freezing point, you know, 0°C or 32°F? They were so hot they had to take their shirts off and pull bare-chested.

So, here is the first energy-saving trick: vigorous exercise induces your body to rapidly adapt to any temperature regime. Currently it’s autumn sliding into winter in the Southern Hemisphere, spring springing toward summer north of the Equator. So, it’s an ideal time to get started. Pick the warmest time of the day in the north, coolest in the south, and do vigorous exercise. A minimum of 20 minutes three times a week is good, if your body allows it. The criterion is, work up a bit of a sweat.

By the time the worst of the season arrives, you’ll be able to shrug it off.

The second point is, you don’t actually need to control the temperature of your house. You only need to control the temperature of a few millimetres of air next to your skin. A recent invention to achieve this, perhaps a million years ago, is clothing. That works well in the coolth, while in the warmth we need to learn from the cultures who live in hot climates. Desert dwellers wear long, loose, voluminous robes, and their heads are mostly covered. Think Tuareg, like this bloke below:

Two men riding camels
‘Tuareg’, by Bradley C Watson (Creative Commons)

Mind you, why isn’t the camel dressed in the same way?

In the humid tropics, people live in the shade, like the Dayaks in Borneo. They use evaporative cooling by actually building their houses over a stretch of river.

Another story: when I was a tiny tot, the summer my family spent as Hitler’s guest in the ghetto was terribly hot. My grandmother, the fount of all wisdom, wrapped me in a wet sheet, and this worked so well that the adults also used this trick. Nowadays, you can buy a special cloth that holds a lot of water without dripping. You can wrap this around your neck.

The final tool is something that works for every source of discomfort: equanimity, or simple acceptance. A chapter of my book, From Depression to Contentment (here’s a ‘genius link’ to it), teaches you how, or if you are too poor to buy an electronic copy, you can read the short story Buddhist equanimity is useful.

Last winter, a dear friend defied the lockdown and visited us. My wife and I were quite comfortable, with temperature at 16 degrees C, but I noticed her shivering, so put on the reverse cycle thingie to warm up the room for her. Even in winter, our solar panels squeezed out enough electricity to run it without drawing power from the grid, so it was a zero footprint exercise.

So, there you have it. Save the planet without frostbite or heatstroke.

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About Dr Bob Rich

I am a professional grandfather. My main motivation is to transform society to create a sustainable world in which my grandchildren and their grandchildren in perpetuity can have a life, and a life worth living. This means reversing environmental idiocy that's now threatening us with extinction, and replacing culture of greed and conflict with one of compassion and cooperation.
This entry was posted in ... wait, what?, balance, collaboration, Core thought, Environment, GCD: Global climate disruption, Health, Strategy and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Too hot? Too cold?

  1. Pingback: Too hot? Too cold? | Bobbing Around

  2. Brilliant ideas! I also keep the heat at a very low temperature (16C). So when I go out, the cold doesn’t bother me. I usually tone down my exercise in the Summer; I’ll try ramping it up this year.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Dr Bob Rich says:

      Magickmermaid, what a wonderful nom de plume! Mine would be ProfessionalGrandfather if I wanted one. Thing about exercise in the heat is to increase in small steps.
      Have fun,

      Liked by 2 people

    • peNdantry says:

      Through the latter part of this last winter I kept the central heating off almost entirely. My objective was to do my bit in the climate emergency; I had of course expected to save some money on my gas bill as a result, but I hadn’t anticipated how much that would be: I saved myself hundreds of pounds compared to last year.

      I had to use a scarf and hat inside to fend off the chill. I’ve no doubt that my behaviour was viewed as eccentric by those who saw me… including the brother who came to visit one day when it was just chilly rather than bitterly cold. It was warmer outside than in that day, so I’d opened doors and windows to try to let some of the ‘coolth’ (I love that word) out and the warmth in! My brother complained that he was feeling cold… but I felt fairly comfortable myself, so I guess I’d acclimatised myself somewhat.

      As a child I was used to seeing ‘Jack Frost’ on the windows in the winter (there was no ‘central heating’ in the house at the time). I do recall feeling reluctant to get out of my warm bed in the mornings, but I don’t remember feeling particularly upset about the situation. I’d grown up with it; it was simply normal. Things are different these days… ‘normality’ is very much defined by what you’re accustomed to.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. 16C inside was normal for me for many years. Well, not entirely normal, but close enough. People who came to visit always complained. *shrug* Now, I would not be able to stand it THAT cold!


  4. Forestwood says:

    What a very interesting concept- an inbuilt adaptive an inbuilt adaptive method for handling extremes of temperature. I don’t like to sweat, I exercise but gently, so maybe this is why I don’t cope at all with the heat and prefer the cold? Furthermore, my son keeps his room at a constant temperature and humidity with air-conditioning, and he works in there all day. He finds the humidity outside unbearable because he has reduced that as much as possible in his room with air conditioning. His body is not accustomed to humid atmospheres any more. This seemsd plausible and probably is


  5. Pingback: The writings of Chat Qu’éspire | Wibble

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