Wellness as Climate Resilience: How to Deal With Outrageous Weather in Ways that Save Energy and Money

My wonderful nephew Chris visited me recently and the first thing he talked about was how ill he was feeling from being in air conditioning and then outside. I was impressed at his level of awareness of how being disconnected from the weather, in and an artificial climate was making him sick in two ways:

  1. the difference between indoor and outdoor temperatures was high, making it feel even hotter every time he was out of the air conditioned space, and
  2. air conditioner filters hadn’t been cleaned and he could feel the dust in his nostrils.

I want to focus on #1. While we spent time together, we were mindful to limit air conditioning, opting instead for shade when outdoors, and the breeziest spots at home.

Chris’ comments triggered memories of my doctoral research on energy use reduction and climate adaptation. In particular, how humans can acclimatize to weather conditions not only to become more energy efficient and save money, but also to gain more physical strength and resilience to changing external conditions.

Of course, with the blazing fires in Southern California, it’s not practical to be outside a lot or to breathe in the pollution. We need to be home where it’s safe (unless we’re evacuating like those in Ventura and San Diego have been doing), and to filter our air if we can. I did, however, venture out for a few walks after the horrific Santa Rosa fires (I was in the East Bay at that time) and felt the pollution in my throat. I wanted my body to know what was going on around me so it could find ways to respond.

In less dangerous but still potentially extreme conditions, such as a cold winter day or a heat wave day, we would be wise to expose ourselves mindfully to actual conditions to build stronger immune systems. Adapting and acclimatizing also saves us money in terms of energy bills and in the long-term, healthcare costs. Here are some simple tips based on the research I was privileged to collaborate on, that apply whether you’re in the Southern or Northern Hemisphere right now:

In Cold Weather: Use heat from other uses, eat warming foods, and increase metabolism.

  • Spend time where there’s already heat such as the kitchen, or use a kotatsu – Japanese heating system where small heater is placed under a table and people sit around covered with blankets to trap the heat (I have a kotatsu chair that I love to use in the winter)
  • Drink hot beverages like tea
  • Eat hot soups and spicy foods
  • Wear layers of clothes, sweaters, socks, hats, and gloves in the house
  • Use body heat – snuggle up!
  • Exercise if possible to warm up

In Hot Weather: Take advantage of natural ventilation, eat cooling foods, and decrease metabolism.

  • Wet your body, hair, and clothes periodically to allow evaporative cooling
  • Take a siesta
  • Limit physical activity
  • Eat cold, raw, light foods like salads
  • Hydrate with water and fruits
  • Avoid hot and spicy food
  • Sit in a cool and breezy location like under a tree

 

I wrote this blog sitting by a window with a cool breeze on a 83F/28C day with 80% humidity, wearing light clothing and with my water bottle next to me. Let me know what works for you in becoming more resilient using techniques that focus on wellness and your body rather than using more resources.

Wellness as resilience is about adapting our bodies and practices to external conditions. this is a walking path in Suva, Fiji, where we often go dressed in light clothing, hats, and armed with water for drinking and wetting our heads with, to stay cool.

Wellness as resilience is about adapting our bodies and practices to external conditions. This is a walking path in Suva, Fiji, where we often go dressed in light clothing, hats, and armed with water for drinking and wetting our heads with, to stay cool.

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