photo credit : jo


The Most Depressing Day
by Jo Abbess
19th January 2009

It really has been a most depressing day, lacking in verve, colour or any sign of encouragement. Psychologists have declared this to be "Blue Monday", the most depressing day of the year.

I wanted to have some drive, some energy to get up and go get on with things, but after a really long train journey, during which I became so demotivated I feel asleep and snored my co-travellers to distraction, I then feel asleep again at my destination, face down with my travel bags around me, instead of getting busy.

No zip. No zoom. No zap. Just general overpowering tiredness. Can last for days. "Perma-tired", it's called, I've been informed.

What really drove me into stupor and torpor was a sudden unveiling of reality whilst I was chugging along on the train. I looked out on mile upon mile, row upon row of typical English houses, terraced, detached, semi.

My eyes stared with a dread sense of defeat, as I realised that I could not begin to calculate just how much Energy was being wasted by these poorly constructed, poorly insulated homes.

I thought about the uselessness of the Government's informmercials about standby lights and turning things off. Anybody who wanted to respond to the call to Save Energy has done so by now. No more "communications" can convert any new minds.

And besides, heat is more of a problem that electricity. How do you get people to deny themselves comfort by turning down the thermostat ?

I thought about how the State invested so much in making sure that people got the equipment installed in their homes so that they could all be "cooking with gas". Even though the Oil and Gas Engineers knew that British Oil and British Gas would eventually start to falter, peak and start to decline.

I thought about the class divide - those people that read serious things at breakfast, and those that don't read much at all. All those who are well-informed have been told the reality on Climate Change and Energy, and they have started to grow their own food, burn wood in their living room biomass heaters, and started cycling more.

But they still fly, they still have fashion-statement machines, cars and gadgets; they still waste Energy.

As for the uninformed and undecided, and the plain manipulated sceptics, how are they ever going to be willing and able to take part in a national PowerDown ?

We are going to need to have a Government-regulated cut in Energy use, sometime. The people are not ready. Their homes leak, and there's no national organisation of skilled insulation engineers, paid or voluntary.

I thought of a chance conversation with someone in my family, who mocked a prominent Environmentalist, painting the picture that campaigning on Climate Change is like campaigning on any other social issue - disposable in the face of other concerns.

Let's face it - with the Economic collapse, Wealth has probably contracted by around 20%. People are going to have to be engaged more than ever with money-making activities and have so much less time and energy for things like draught-proofing their homes.

If all of us are busy coping with Economic uncertainty, and struggling to keep heads above water, even less of our personal energy will be spent on addressing Energy efficiencies and savings.

And then I realised something else. Like 80% of the population, I am in dire need of motivation to get so many practical things done. Trivia and paperwork occupy valuable leisure and household time to the extent that there are things I haven't gotten around to for years. Unless I am with practical people, I end up doing few practical things.

We're all at sea, and I'm right there along with everyone else.

Nobody can fix Climate Change all by themselves. And as we all so desperately cling to our individual space and our individual ways, it's hard to make friendships and professional services relationships that will count in the insulation and Energy saving game.

There are trust issues with plumbers, carpenters, engineers of every kind. We all know at least one rogue builder...Charges for normal home renovations and repairs are bad enough. Any demand for insulation and airtightness services will bring out the same charlatans making superfluous charges as those who ran the solar power racket for a decade.

There are way too few people who know how to insulate a home cheaply, using local materials and skills. They are way too few people who understand heat and Energy.

Recently, I tried to explain to a young relative of mine who has an interest in Physics about the amount of Energy wasted in the United Kingdom : in 2007, virtually half of the Primary Energy consumed was wasted in bringing the Energy to the end user, much of that in power stations.

And what of the Energy delivered to the end users : how inefficiently is that used ? Why are people required to travel further and further for work, essential services, entertainment ? Why is there an increasing number of electrical devices in public spaces ?

Why do people believe they need to heat their homes rather than insulate them ?

How on Earth are we going to stop wasting Energy ?


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