Friday, September 08, 2006

Pictures (and global warming)

I hope that some of you have noticed that my BLOG has not been working perfectly for the past few weeks. Specifically, when you click on a picture, you are supposed to get a new browser window with a full size version of that pic in it. Without that feature, the Blog is pretty lame since you can't see what it is that caused me to say whatever I say in the text.

Well, I finally got the HTML code figured out and I've updated my most recent posting to let you see the full sized pics. Take a look and enjoy. If this ever happens again, you can always see my pics at my photo album which is linked in the right hand column.

Now to Global Warming.

On the flight back from Bangkok I got to watch Al Gore's movie, "An Inconvenient Truth." I'd never pay to see it, but since it was "free" on the flight, I figured I'd take a look.

I was surprised at the amount and quality of the facts Gore uses in drawing his conclusions. One fact in particular was that the US is the largest contributor to the CO2 levels measured in the upper atmosphere.

I was surprised, because in general, our pollution is much less severe than that of Bangkok, Mexico City and the most populace regions of China. But I am not ready to dispute the fact cited, what I wanted to discuss are the difference in life style that is apparent to me after visiting some of these other places.

Vehicle Emissions: The US EPA is apparently doing a pretty good job on vehicle emissions since we don't generally see billowing smoke coming out of vehicles here like you would in other places. Diesel engines abroad are particularly noticable, but even the 100cc motorcycles smoke more than we are used to seeing. So my question is that if our individual vehicle emissions are less noticable, why are we polluting more? Dunno.

Vehicle size: Ok, this is a real possiblility. There are no SUV's in Asia. Well, there are, but not many. Gas costs 27 Baht/Liter, about $3/gallon or twice what we pay. The result is the first of the lifestyle differences I noticed. All the cars are smaller, and there are fewer PER CAPITA than here. Notice I said fewer per capita. It is not uncommon for a family of four here in the US to have 2, 3, 4 or even more cars. Brenda and I have two cars and two motorcycles - FOR A FAMILY OF TWO. In Bangkok you have to make special arrangments with your landlord if you have more than two vehicles because they won't have anywhere to park them. In our building, it costs an extra 3,000 Baht/month if you have two cars instead of just one. So do we have more cars. I think maybe we do, and they are bigger and use more gas. There are tons of 100cc motorcycles in Bangkok because they go forever on a liter of gas. Are we prepared to sacrifice the convenience of each of us having our own car and it being a really big one? I don't know..... I drive a full size F-150 4WD.

Commuting distance: I think we drive further to work than our counterparts elswhere. Brenda's commute to work in Bangkok is less than 8 miles. Most other places we have lived, her commute was at least 15 miles, and usually further. The thing that surprised me was that most Thais that we talked to thought an 8 mile commute was way too long. Not a little too long, but WAY too long. Hmmmmm.

Air Conditioning: It is hot in Bangkok. Maybe hotter than Houston. It is about the same lattitude as Cancun so you be the judge. At any rate, A/C is pretty much a necessity, at least for me. But the Thais are different. They actually prefer non-air conditioned space a lot of the time. While waiting for a cab, I suggested to my Thai companion that we step inside the building where it was cooler.

She complied but laughed and said "it's too cold in there." So I started noticing that the Thais were not sweating as they walked on the streets. And none of the servants quarters in the apartments we looked at were air conditioned. Each place had a small maid's quarters that also housed the washing machine, and all were open to the outside air. Not openable... OPEN. So I conclude that the Thai's are accustomed to the heat, and they prefer it to the high electric bills that result from full time A/C. Even in the apartments designed for the tastes of ex-patriots, the A/C is never a central unit like we have here. Each room has its own A/C, similar to those you see in Hotels these days. And most of the Expats I talked to admitted that they do not run the AC during the day, only at night, and only in rooms being used for sleeping. Electricity costs about twice as much there as here also. Are we ready to sacrifice some A/C? Dunno.

Refrigerators: Need I go into this? They are small compared to ours. And in the grocrery stores, the eggs are not refrigerated. After all, they were just on the farm this morning. Lots of other stuff is subjected to the heat of the day instead of the fridge too. Are we ready.....?

So in my mind, it is possible that despite our vehicle emissions standards, the US may be the largest contributor to CO2 related pollution. I still prefer the lifestyle here. I think we could adjust some, maybe alot. But I sure do like having the ability to pick and choose where I adjust, and as long as I can pay the price, I think I'll continue making my own choices. Is that selfish? dunno. Is it more or less selfish than the third world countries that refuse to invest in cleaner vehicles like we have? Maybe it's just a case of "Pick your poison."


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