Sunday, May 13, 2007

I Have Been To Our Future

I have been to our future. At least, I have been to some of it. What I mean is, I've been to parts of the world where people already live the way Americans will live. And the good news is, those places weren't horrible. They were pretty fun.

I lived in Japan for a year. Most people in Japan, even in big cities, do not have central heating or air conditioning. In the winter, many indoor spaces are barely warmer than the outdoors. Japanese people generally heat themselves instead of their entire homes. They drink hot tea or coffee, they take hot baths. They dress in warm clothes even indoors. They sit around special tables called kotatsu, which incorporate a blanket and a heating element. Most people dry their clothes on closelines, too, even in the city. No American-style dryers.

I won't pretend that I always enjoyed this aspect of Japan. There were times when it annoyed me, and I wished I was back home with my nice central heat and A/C, and warm clothes from the dryer. But it didn't kill me either. It wasn't that bad. You get used to it. And it uses a lot less energy.

I also visited a very small town in Costa Rica. Hot water was not available, and the power was out more often than it was on -- at least while I was there. But this didn't seem to bother anyone much. When a few Americans complained about the lack of hot water, the locals seemed to find this hilarious ("Hot water? Why would you need that?"). And I remember going to a restaurant while the power was out. The restaurant didn't close, because power outages happened often. They lit candles. For entertainment, one of the girls who worked there got up and sang a few songs, a capella. I liked that better than a stereo system anyway. Everyone was having fun. I don't think anyone complained.

My point is, those people in Japan and Costa Rica didn't think they were living in disaster areas. They weren't panicking. They were living life as usual. They were happy. We also will be happy eventually, once we adapt to a World Without Oil through an attitude adjustment.

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