Tuesday, December 04, 2012

The Radio Washed My Dishes

I would like to thank Marty Moss-Coane of WHYY's Radio Times for this clean sink. She didn't actually come to our house and clean all the dishes last night, but her program, rebroadcast in the evening, was so interesting that I hung in there and cleaned every last dish.

Her guest, Collin O'Mara, Delaware's Secretary of Environment and Energy, spoke about the problems of climate and coastal flooding with such a fine mix of pragmatism and idealism, using words cleansed of polluting partisan rancor, that I began to believe again in the future where, as the web description reads, "economic growth and environmental sustainability are inextricably linked."

Regardless of what was on the radio, the practice of engaging the mind while what I call "the second self" does physical work is itself a small victory for a more sustainable way of life. As long as machines feed off energy that does lasting environmental damage, then the idea is to engage the second self to serve as many of those machine functions as possible until cleaner energy comes on line. We are well adapted for this, given that we can perform physical labor while our minds are preoccupied with other things. In fact, if I had delegated the task to our older, noisy dishwasher, I might not have turned on the radio, and would have missed the program altogether.

Though some approaches to handwashing dishes use a lot of energy by wasting lots of hot water, I use cold water, and in bursts rather than a steady stream. The cold water feels good during the summer, and I must have adapted because even in winter I don't mind it. That sort of adaptability, too, like all the cultivated habits that comprise the "second self" (as in, "it's second nature to me now"), are all tools readily available for easing our transition into a more sustainable lifestyle.

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