7.07.2010

Close the Door...one more time

Similes lie in a melted heap at my feet: It’s as hot as...what? I don’t know what? Hell? Too hackneyed, and besides, who’s been there to confirm? Washington’s sweaty professionals drip down the sidewalks carrying their suit jackets on one finger, like St Bartholomew carrying his flayed skin, as the sign of their martyrdom. We discover new sweat glands we didn’t know we had and turn our stinging eyes to the thermostat.

We all know that we’re loading the grid past the breaking point. (If this is news to you, check out the masterful Joel Achenbach’s grid-egesis in National Geographic this month) Pepco tries to warn us to run energy-intensive appliances at night when demand for AC is lower. I wonder if anyone is listening.

A little less than years ago I launched this blog with an opening post called “Close the Door” in which I revealed not only my shoe buying preferences but my seething irritation with a certain store’s profligate habit of propping its doors open even while the AC was running. Later, I like to think because of me and other like-minded consumers, this store and its innumerable branches in weirdly close proximity, put a sticker on their doors proudly announcing the policy to keep the doors shut when the AC was on. I was so happy I bought a pair of shoes.

Those stickers are long gone now, and they, Carbon One Shoes, are back to their old ways. I could launch into another rant—it’s tempting—and threaten to keep my credit card holstered—which I will—but clearly something just isn’t getting through. As I and others have repeatedly said before, technology is not really the difficult part of the sustainability problematic. People are. We are the problem.

What causes this behavior? What makes someone, either management or staff, decide that it’s a good idea to prop open a door and let cool air billow into the street to dissipate into nothingness? It’s a kind of blindness, I think, the willful not-seeing of the privileged end user, who enjoys the final breath that began with the removal of a mountain top in West Virginia, its detritus shoved unceremoniously into a stream valley to cloud the waters kill the fish, so the coal can give up its dirty energy, spitting out greenhouse gases and poison, send the power through miles of shorn landscape so someone can press a button on the wall and say, gosh, it’s a little warm in here, let’s crank the AC and open the door. Yeah, that’s a great idea.