Friday, May 16, 2008

Jane Smiley's "Paradigm Shift" (short story, science fiction, humor): Going green can spice up your married life!

Quote from short story titled Paradigm Shift by Jane SmileyThis amusing story doesn't describe new technology. It's about human issues - an individual's trials when trying to become environment friendly at home - using currently available technology. I suppose the story is triggered by recent fuel price hikes - it's mostly about saving energy.

Indians among the audience will find some of the issues frivolous (because of hot sticky weather, & per capita consumption far below many other places), others impossibly expensive - but look at the overall message, please. And it's an interesting story even if you don't want to take the message.

Skip it if explicit talk of sex bothers you.

Story summary.

Mary Lou Harris-DeLong has decided to go green. Story is mostly about enrolling her husband, Dave, in various projects that will cut down her household's energy consumption.

Dave normally doesn't care. But she has worked out an incentive - sex, & playfulness related to it. By the time they are done, they would also have shed many kilos - sex can be energy consuming! And they are closer together - sex can be a relationship tonic!

Some of the projects include:
  1. Energy saving light bulbs. Far more expensive than normal (in India at least) - reason they have low penetration here.
  2. Wear cloths longer before washing. Many Indian will laugh at it, or at least feel uncomfortable with the idea - you mean in this dusty, hot & humid environment?
  3. Cut down on water usage: don't leave tap open when not needed during toothbrushing; cut down on water consumed when bathing.
  4. One shower a day if you take two. Author gives an interesting solution: if you use bathtub & hot water, how about joint husband/wife showers! Can have sex there too!
  5. Bunch errands together; be more organized about stocking up.
  6. Take bus, bicycle, walk a mile.
  7. Solar panels - feed electricity to grid when possible. How I wish they were cheap enough? I get so much sunlight, & it not only goes waste but actually increases electricity bills in this hot weather!
  8. LED lights. Only homes I've seen them used in Bombay are where they are installed to make a fashion statement. Very low energy consumption, but sooo expensive!
OK - Indians will see government propaganda here. But that is because we are fed so much of it - we stop listening out of sheer boredom.

There are actually funny reasons I see change happening. A relative, e.g., switched most lighting fixtures to energy efficient but expensive ones last year because the town he lives in has very bad electricity quality - newer gadgets can withstand wild voltage fluctuations better! A friend recently installed a lot of colorful LEDs as part of "mood lighting" - so at least part of the evening, it's only mood lighting that is lit!

Fact sheet.

First published: (US) Playboy, June 2008.
Rating: A
Added to my best of the year 2008 list.