The first thing I do when I enter the office these warm days is to switch off the air conditioner directly over my head.
For the past few weeks, however hot the weather, I cool myself down by sitting quietly for a while, sipping a cup of hot tea, and browsing a few newspapers with a bit of detachment. I may still be sweating from walking to the office, but I know sweating is good for the system.
According to ancient Chinese wisdom, one feels cool once he puts his heart at ease. If your heart is on fire, no air conditioner can help.
At home, I open windows to allow in the summer wind, and that's where my wife disagrees, or used to. She was a big fan of air conditioning until recently when I finally convinced her that long exposure to artificial wind would do her health no good.
Indeed, many people have been so taken in by the "convenience" of Industrial Age that they've forgotten that a bit sweating in the sun is good, not bad, for their health.
Many city girls abhor sunlight in the false belief that the paler they look, the more attractive they are.
In a way, this false notion about what makes a comfortable life leads to a dreadful modern lifestyle that lies at the heart of global warming and many other problems threatening the very life of our planet.
In their 2008 book, "The Necessary Revolution: How Individuals and Organizations Are Working Together to Create a Sustainable World," five authors, including Peter Senge who lectures at MIT, tell us that a change of our damaging lifestyle is inevitable. "You can't have a fishing industry if there are no fish, or a soft drink company without clean water," they write in a light tone, but their observation is thought provoking.
The most enlightening part of the book is its "can-do" message. They're not asking people to do what's impossible. "People and organizations around the world are already planting the seeds for new ways of living and working together."
This "can-do" message matters most to a world in which many people are locked and lost in a mass inertia - an unenlightened bow to the status quo. I once asked a former colleague to think about a life without air conditioners and he was quick to reprove me: how can our life go on without air conditioners?
Well, you can't argue with a person who believes air conditioners are better than the Pyramids or stone structures like them that use nature to keep the interior cool in summer and warm in winter.
Fortunately, this is not a world dominated by wrong-headed folks. "The Necessary Revolution" gives hopes in offering case after case of individuals and organizations doing the right thing: living a greener life.
For example, a few years ago, concerned individuals in the United States building community set up the US Green Building Council and the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification system.
It was a difficult job, but they did it. It took seven years, from 1993 to 2000, for the LEED to complete just its rating system. But after another seven years, by 2007, the LEED program already listed more than 7,500 certified buildings.
The cost of a LEED-certified building averages only 1.8 percent more than that of a conventional building, but savings on energy and operating costs afterwards are huge.
The LEED is just one example mentioned in the book. Another more ambitious program involves Sweden, which the authors say plans to eliminate all fossil fuel use in its territory by 2020. In particular, many Swedes hope to build northern Sweden into the "world's first 'bioregion'."
This is not a time to blame one another for the causes of global warming. This is a time for action across boundaries. "The human community has caused a lot of harm to the planet, and things need to change. Doing nothing is no longer an option," say the authors.
Those who act first, laugh last. And those who know where to act first, laugh best.
"The built environment" - high-rise buildings, for instance - contributes to double the emissions that cars and trucks produce worldwide, the authors note.
So, don't underestimate your "tiny" job of switching off a few air-conditioners.
(Shanghai Daily June 15, 2009)