Most likely one of the most relevant topics to those of us, who are pedestrian students in this time of the year, is the heat. After walking for fifteen minutes in the sun, tired after a long day of being lectured, sweating from heat to toe, how could someone blame me for going into my room and cranking up the air conditioning unit in my window?
Obviously this is adding to the heat bubble of Charlottesville that I am trying to avoid. As pointed out by Professor Sherman, this is an irony that compounds itself. The more I pump up the AC in my room, the more I heat the city, whose heat I was trying to escape in the first place. The further we go into the rabbit hole, the farther away we get from solving our problem.
So if I were to turn off my Air conditioner what would I accomplish? For one my utility bill would go down saving me some money. Perhaps the small amount less energy being used and heat given off by my AC unit would somehow effect the system, though most likely not with all the other thousands of students doing the same thing. I would go to sleep hot and sweaty, and most likely get a bad night of sleep and be less productive in my classes the next day. This is a scenario that for me, and most students, is not logical either. So how do I make an impact?
Cities can make policies to have every building be “sustainable” to a certain extent, but how much does that actually work? For a builder to create a building to be LEED certified, they must get a certain amount of points to do so. Let’s say an architect in Denver calls for beetle kill pine, which is in exorbitant amounts in Colorado, therefore using a local resource. If 60% of the building will consist of this pine, that is a great thing, lowering the shipping costs and energy needed to bring them there. Let’s also say that same architect designed the roofs all to have a southern exposure so that the building could be run on solar power. While the building is under construction, a new black solar panel that captures more energy is designed in Sweden. So the Architect calls for this new more aesthetically pleasing and more efficient product. Well the shipping cost and energy needed to transport those new panels exceeded what it would have been to import a different type of wood in the first place. This doesn’t even cover the fact that the building they destroyed to build this new building was only 50% salvageable, the rest created waist. Well this seems to be the similar to the predicament I find myself in with my Air Conditioner.
Cities can try to reduce the heat bubble with the planting of trees, more green spaces, and but at the end of the day what is going to change heat islands is a drastic social change. One social norm that changed was cigarette smoking. Though many people still continue to smoke today, society looks at it differently. Instead of it being the “cool” thing to do, it is seen as disgusting and deadly. This has led to cities and counties across the country becoming “Smokefree” ( http://www.no-smoke.org/pdf/WRBLawsMap.pdf ). There was a slap to the face in the American public that associating smoking a cigarette with death.
Though global warming is obviously happening, the public has not felt that strong feeling of grave subsequences as drastically as may be necessary. When and how this will happen may be scary to think about, and it may be too late to help. The solution to this problem will not be a simple one, and it won’t be the same solution in all places for everyone.