fuel poverty

This morning I went to wash my feet and ran the hot water in the bath. It was freezing. Come to think of it the house was a bit cold as well.|
This led to that feeling in your gut that you hope isn’t true, but alas it was true.
We had ran out of oil.

Heat had already been playing on my mind this week already. It had cropped up in a number of books. Henry David Thoreau mentioned it in Walden

‘The grand necessity, then, for our bodies, is to keep warm, to keep the vital heat in us. What pains we accordingly take, not only with our Food, and our Clothing, and Shelter, but with our beds, which are our nightclothes, robbing the nests and breasts of birds to prepare this shelter within a shelter, as the mole has its bed of grass and leaves and the end of its burrow!’

The subject of keeping warm had also made an appearance in ‘A Homage to Catalonia’ where George Orwell describes the hardships of the front line.

‘In trench warfare five things are important: firewood, food, tobacco, candles and the enemy. In winter on the Saragossa front they were important in that order, with the enemy a bad last’

and later

‘Meanwhile, firewood – always firewood. Throughout that period there is probably no entry in my diary that does not mention firewood, or rather the lack of it. We were between two and three thousand feet above sea-level, it was mid-winter and the cold was unspeakable’

Yesterday morning our electricity was cut as NIE carried out maintenance work. As I cooked my pancakes on a camping stove my mind pondered the amount of energy we require to keep warm, to keep our homes heated and comfortable.

Then this morning I discovered the oil tank empty.

I suppose that this reflecting about fuel and the like gets me down. We need to stay warm and staying warm means burning fuel, usually fossil fuels, expensive fossil fuels that pollute the atmosphere. And it’s expensive and getting even more expensive. More and more of our income is  tied up in buying polluting, unsustainable fossil fuels to heat our  heat inefficient homes. The main reason we need oil is not even to stay warm, but to dry our clothes with there being no room to for a tumble drier.

There are few (if any) more important things (if any) than staying warm. You can imagine our ancestors huddled in a cave around a campfire thousands of years ago or cutting turf from the bogs of Ireland. This was vitally important work in the days before cheap fuel.

The way we keep warm presently is so unsustainable and there seems to be no serious efforts to make it sustainable. Those little wood burning stoves look the business but Ireland is a tree desert so is there enough wood to go around?

I wandered down around the new Titanic Visitor Centre in Belfast last week and got to thinking if this was a wise use of money?

Part of me was wondering would it not have been a wiser investment for the future of Northern Ireland to use the money (90,000,000 pounds) for something like planting trees and making a forest, or investing in insulating homes or eco homes?

If there are about 700, 000 households that would have been about 125 pounds for each home to install better loft insulation or buy draught excluders etc.

Or to plant a mammoth forest, like acres and acres of forest. John Seymour recommends ash trees as being good for burning and relative quick growing. Plant trees everywhere, no more big buildings I reckon.

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2 thoughts on “fuel poverty”

  1. It is a shame that political decisions always seem like they are about gains in the short term and not about the sustainable future. By short term I mean the next few decades, and by long term I mean the next few hundred. Democracy is brilliant, but the terrible thing is that the politicians will never win the vote of the children of our children’s children. Unfortunately I believe that it will be necessity that will drive sustainable policy in the end, and not sound long term thinking.

    I have a friend who was given a wee plot of land by his family. Instead of selling it or building on it he contacted conservationni and bought a load of ash trees from them. He has already started to chop down a few of the older trees around the place. It is hard work, but it is important to him that his children see that it is hard work. They have to see him come home from a full day of work and then chop up an old tree. They have to see that these trees will keep them warm eternally, if they look after them. Of, course there are too many of us and too little space. Or maybe that is the easy answer these days.

    By the way, I have a book to pass on to you. I just don’t know how to get it to you. It is a book about ecology, Christianity, community and the Celtic identity. You were the first person I thought to hand it on to. If you read it then pass it on to someone else who might like it, or just pass it on anyway. Send me a wee message so I can get it to you. s s a m e s at g m a i l dot c o m

    1. I agree….I think there is the attitude that we’ll be able to sort stuff out eventually so lets just keep on doing what we’re doing and cross that bridge when we get to it…but it takes years to grow a tree for example. There’s no point in saying 20 years from now ‘We need more trees’
      Like if that £90,000,000 was used to buy land for allotments so that people who can’t afford land can grow stuff that would be a wiser use of money (in my opinion)…or to make a few areas for covered markets throughout the North (like St George’s Market)….or to improve public transport or extend a rail line….maybe I’m becoming a grumpy old man!

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