September 30, 2011

Sayonara to Setsuden

Setsuden, meaning actions to reduce energy use at the office and at home, was the buzzword that set our lifestyle parameters for summer 2011. The aftermath of this spring’s Fukushima Daichi nuclear reactor imbroglio left residents around Tokyo and in northern Japan no choice but to power down or face potential blackouts during the summer. Government-mandated setsuden policies implemented for the July-September period resulted in remarkable efforts to cull electricity consumption during peak use hours and leave a cushion in the aggregate power supply. Lights were shut off; average room temperatures rose to uncomfortable levels; dress became downright Panamanian, wrapped around Japanglish terms such as Super Cool Biz; slightly Orwellian graphics of aggregate electricity use were omnipresent on TV and in public spaces. The buzz in the air wasn’t coming from busy transformers, it was the constant, collective anxiety over potential power shortages.

The Rising Family did its part: I worked Saturdays and Sundays this summer, which shifted Thursdays and Fridays to being my “weekends” –but not Lady E’s – and we only flicked on the air conditioner when absolutely necessary, among other changes. I didn’t much like the childcare implications of the changed working days…but I did think that having to really consider my energy use patterns was a philosophical challenge that resulted in behavioral changes for the better.

However, I am not sad to see it end. To celebrate its demise, I am going to offer a Bukowski-esque take on post-setsuden:

the further away I am from the summer setsuden reality, the better I feel
even though I write about the great power down, the further away I am from it, the better I feel
two more megawatts is beautiful, as long as more ice cubes appear without retribution
I like being better lit and cooler
daylight’s getting shorter, but that allows more juice for life
no more piercing LEDs on my desk, no more half-lit drug stores, sticky store clerks
I do not like the harvest of night’s neon glory
I don’t like the reduced hum of machines
I don’t like lanolin-like sweat covering every surface of my cubicle
I don’t like rescheduling three months
I don’t like the fear of future progress curtailed
I don’t like the idea of trimmed capacity, in its every meaning
Summer’s heat is behind us, pushing us forward to a brighter end to 2011
And so it should be.

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