Friday, 28 March 2008

changing the dream

Last week my friend Chris interviewed Professor Richard Heinberg in Lewes about appropriate responses to climate change and peak oil. Not the ‘peak oil theory’ but the real effects of rising energy prices on ordinary people. In many countries, Heinberg said, peak oil is already happening in the form of electricity blackouts and transport fuels being beyond the means of the man in the street. People in the West who recognise the problem early on, he said, are the ones who will be more resilient and be at an advantage in a world with rising energy prices. These are families and businesses who are proactively changing their habits to be less dependent on fossil fuels.

So we set the scene for our old dishwasher breaking down over Easter. We’d managed to resuscitate it several times, but we finally had to admit it was destined for the scrap heap. We’ve spent the last week starting to make the transition away from a dishwasher. Blimey, there are a lot of dirty plates. I’ve realised that a dishwasher is as much for storing unwashed dishes as for cleaning them. We’re still trying to negotiate the choppy territories of ‘who washes’ in a family of six. We are ill-equipped. But hang on, dishwashers are a recent luxury. As a child, it was my job was to wash and hand dry the plates for a family of eight. In Finland, apparently (see photo) they build cupboards above the sink to drain the plates.

So now I’ve sent a challenge out to Sue Fleming, who co-runs Woodworks of Lewes, a hand-made kitchen design company. Sue’s in the Transition Town Lewes business group with me. Can your company, I asked, design and make an above-sink dishwashing/drying/storage system that’s easy to use and looks elegant in our town house? I believe in frugality but not austerity.
This story sums up my reluctance as a rich white polluter to let go of modern luxuries in order to build resilience and save us all from extinction.

3 comments:

jamesgreyson said...

Yes there is an advantage for families and businesses acting early but it is a temporary one. When TSHTF our potatoes will not be safe from people down the road going hungry. Any small-holding will not be safe from local autority requisitions. The country will not be safe from well-armed desperados and enforced immigration. And if that's not enough, when the gulf stream switches off we'll find our tomotoes don't grow so well!

I don't want to scare anyone but it's important to be clear that the only real solutions are those which work for everyone.

Wooden plate dryers are a standard stock item. See for example http://www.amazon.co.uk/Watsons-WOODEN-PLATE-DRYER/dp/B000KKCAH6 or do a search on wooden plate dryer. They are conventionally installed without an enclosure to speed up drying. I don't like your chances of getting one that does the "dishwashing" as well!

adriennecampbell said...

That's certainly one possible reality James. The one I'm currently working with is that a critical mass of people starts to build resilience into our way of life, taking little steps, loosening our dependence on fossil fuels, becoming more self-reliant and mutually supportive. So when the changes start to bite, be they rapid or slow, we'll have already started the transition and will not resist change. For me, it's the way we do this transition that's really going to count - with enthusiasm and creativity or trying to keep the show on the road at all costs. One reason why I'm trying to write about the baby steps is to inspire and encourage other people - though at the moment, most people don't seem to want to engage much in pre-emptive change.

Drying rack - I want one that's enclosed as I want an elegant design solution... One of our daughters has gone on domestic strike because of this decision and I need the solution to be appealing to people who don't necessarily approach problems with gusto, like I do!

jamesgreyson said...

Transition towns hope to avoid the anarchy-pillaging scenario becoming a reality. If whole communities prepare together then they should cooperate when times get tough. However before we can make this a reality we may need to think more about what it would take to achieve a critical mass of participation. The 1990s Local Agenda 21 initiatives never got going because they didn't offer powerful positive visions for lifestyles and economy. Perhaps they hoped baby steps could lead to paradigm change.

Drying racks work according to the ventilation. Enclosing 3 sides might halve the ventilation and double the drying times. Options that come to mind: get one more attractive than a cupboard (like my Cambridge friend's one); use a worktop level drip tray; use a dehumidifier in winter. These things make 4X more heat than they use as electricity and can be placed anywhere in the house.