Sunday, August 9, 2009

Air Conditioners - a boon or a bane?

by Sri Sandip Dasgupta

For the last few years whenever we have visited India during the summer, we have had the good fortune of avoiding the extreme heat by sitting indoors in an air-conditioned room and sleeping blissfully at night. These days there are even air-conditioned radio taxis that will pick you up at your doorsteps and drop you in front of an air-conditioned mall. One can then spend the whole day at the mall - totally oblivious to the sweltering heat outside. This experience is quite in contrast to the lifestyle we grew up with in India when we were kids and hence I am forced to look at the other side of the story.

The principle behind the air conditioner is to suck out the hot and polluted air and release it to the outside air - much like sewage is dumped into a sewer line for treatment before being discharged into the river or ocean. The temperature of the air that is exhausted by the air conditioner is at least 10 degrees higher than that of the outside air. This principle seems to work reasonably well in Western countries where the population density is low, the air is clean and there are very few living beings working out in the open air during the sweltering heat. But let us analyze the same situation in a densely populated country like India.

Even with the rapid economic strides made by India in the last few years, I would contend that no more 10% of the population can enjoy the comfort of the air conditioner. This 10% of the population is discharging hot air into the atmosphere on a regular basis. This 10% of the population is continuously discharging humidity into the already humid atmosphere. Now let us look at how life has changed for the remaining 90% of India’s population.

As I drive through the roads, I see construction workers appearing to perpetually be working on public works projects throughout the year. I look at the street urchins trying to sell petty goods at every traffic signal. I see a large number of workers who still walk or bike from their house and back. I begin counting the massive amount of workforce employed as delivery boys who are on the roads constantly during the day. The list goes on and on - and I don’t feel their daily experience.

These people are all humans too - but life has become worse for them over the years. There working hours have not changed, the nature of their jobs hasn’t changed. They however have to toil in an atmosphere with much more humidity and much more hotter air than ought to be subjected to. When they go home at night, they probably have access to a fan - but the nights do not get cooler anymore thanks to a more polluted atmosphere. What will happen when 25% of all the population will begin using air-conditioners in a populated country like India?

The same Brahman resides within all of all of us – irrespective of whether we’ re part of the 10% enjoying the comforts of an air-conditioner, or part of the 90% that doesn’t have access to these luxuries. One can argue that this is all “Karma Phala” - but what about the fact that “I” (as an enjoyer of luxuries) am doing nothing about improving the situation. Isn’t that bad “Karma” on my part? Will I have to suffer similar consequences in a future life? I sincerely pray to my Guru, Sri Sri Babathakur to show me the light and help me find the answers.

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