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About this book

Against the backdrop of the environmental impact of household electricity consumption and the history of cooling practices, Marlyne Sahakian considers how people keep cool, from Metro Manila to other mega-cities in Southeast Asia.

Table of Contents

Frontmatter

Prologue

Abstract
It is this type of list, which exists in countless renditions the world over, that has motivated my research on sustainable energy consumption in the home. The list raises a series of questions for those interested in ‘green energy and air quality management,’ the area of environmental concern that these tips are aiming to address. Environmental scientists and researchers working in the interdisciplinary fields of industrial ecology, ecological economics and environmental sociology could presumably answer one of the sets of questions: what really is a ‘greener lifestyle’ and how do we measure this? Do we know, as individuals, citizens, households and as a global society, what the main priority areas are for reducing the environmental harm that results from our current consumption patterns — be they related to resource depletion, loss of biodiversity, or local and global pollution? And which item on this list is most significant in terms of reducing environmental impact: should a priority be placed on electricity usage, on car transport or on smoking? A more scientific approach to understanding consumption patterns is necessary, one that can quantify and qualify environmental impact within local, regional and global contexts.
Marlyne Sahakian

1. Introduction

Abstract
We are living in an urban world. Over half the world’s population is estimated to reside in urban centers, with a concentration of urban population growth in less-developed regions, particularly in Asia, which is home to 11 mega-cities (cities with a population of over 10 million people). Most of these metropolitan areas are in warm to hot climates. One challenge lies in anticipating the energy requirements of these urban populations for keeping cool, particularly as increases in affluence can translate to a moving-up on the energy ladder from biomass to fossil fuels, and from fans to air-conditioning. This book is focused on a specific form of consumption directly related to energy, climate and the environment: electricity consumption for residential cooling in Southeast Asia’s mega-cities. It takes on the question of how people go about keeping cool in their everyday lives in Metro Manila, the Philippines, and how this relates to efforts to reduce energy consumption towards more ‘sustainable’ consumption patterns — reflecting as well on other mega-cities in the region.
Marlyne Sahakian

2. Energy Consumption and Cooling in Southeast Asia

Abstract
Asia is developing rapidly in every possible way. Shifting standards of living are leading to higher resource consumption, with higher energy consumption and resulting emissions. The focus of this chapter is to provide an overview of energy consumption trends in Southeast Asia, first by considering the region as a whole and projections for its growing energy demand, then by placing this in relation to questions of access to energy and carbon emissions. Four case studies will be presented to further explore the question of household electricity consumption in relation to energy sources and carbon emissions: the Philippines, Singapore, Indonesia and Thailand. City temperatures and cooling needs in these countries will be discussed, providing a general overview of cooling trends in the region’s mega-cities. The electricity sector will be explored in more depth for the Philippines, followed by an overview of renewable energy developments in the Philippines, Thailand and Indonesia.
Marlyne Sahakian

3. Cooling Histories, Habits and Variations

Abstract
Air-conditioning is a relatively recent invention, yet in a matter of decades it has moved from being a novelty to being not only normal but also expected in certain contexts. This chapter explores the history of air-conditioning, in the Philippines and the region, as well as the strategies currently used by different people to keep cool in the mega-city of Metro Manila. Bodily dispositions towards indoor air temperatures will be discussed, as well as the various ways in which air-conditioning is being used — and not used — among different household members and between varying socio-economic groups. The focus here is on people and the artifacts available to us for keeping cool, with a discussion around norms when it comes to indoor temperatures — all of the different facets that make up the practice of keeping cool. Through this lens, it becomes evident that more efficient machines will not necessarily lead to an overall reduction in energy consumption for cooling. The high percentage of household expenditure on electricity among the least privileged economic groups will also serve to illustrate the limits of ‘individual choice’ when it comes to cooling people and spaces, as certain low-income buildings do not allow passive ventilation, which promotes the use of fans and, increasingly, air-conditioning.
Marlyne Sahakian

4. Cooling Our Colliding Practices

Abstract
Air-conditioning provides the service of cooler and dryer air, which for many is associated with greater indoor comfort in hot and humid weather conditions. In studying air-conditioning consumption in Southeast Asia, it became apparent that the service of cool air actually provides a whole host of secondary services related to different practices, such as cool air for sleeping better at night or cool air for staying fashionable. In this chapter, the many overlapping practices made possible by artificial cooling will be presented and discussed. Most of the findings here are based on in-depth interviews with people in 2008, 2009 and again in 2013, including a handful of household interviews with respondents living in Jakarta, Thailand and Singapore. In addition to these interviews, a survey was conducted among 155 Metro Manila residents in 2013, to validate the frequency of some of the responses. What transpires is that people may love and hate air-conditioning for different reasons, but cool air is generally seen as more comfortable to most.
Marlyne Sahakian

5. When ‘West Is Best’ for Housing

Abstract
How we build homes, communities and cities is a critical area in terms of future energy consumption and environmental impact, related to the depletion of fossil fuels and climate change. To contextualize current housing trends in the Philippines, the history of architecture will be presented in this chapter, looking back at vernacular architecture then moving towards more contemporary trends. Policies, standards and practices towards more efficient buildings in the region will be uncovered, with a focus on efforts to achieve ‘green’ buildings in the Philippines. Environmental factors are not the sole consideration: ‘sustainable’ housing also involves a sensitivity to different socio-economic groups, in terms of planning, design and usage, a perspective which is currently lacking in Metro Manila. The chapter concludes with a discussion around competing interests for building ‘sustainably’ in the Philippines, and the challenges this represents.
Marlyne Sahakian

6. Opportunities for Change through Social Learning

Abstract
A shift towards more sustainable consumption patterns through the social practice theory lens entails understanding how practices are reproduced, abandoned or changed. Change can occur across different elements of a practice. Norms around what constitutes healthy and comfortable indoor air climates can be debated and challenged, for example, and housing that promotes natural ventilation can help reduce the need for air-conditioning consumption. Focusing now on people, one way that we change is by learning, which includes a proposition of what is to be learned, followed by our engagement in situated learning. This chapter addresses the question of how people might learn to reduce energy consumption patterns — people, in a broad sense, meaning members of government, business, civil society and households. We will look at how individuals are being promoted as central to change, which is linked to how ‘environmentalism’ is communicated in public discourse, among everyday people and by both public and private interest groups. We will then consider how people might play a role in civil society, and the strengths of existing social networks in Metro Manila today.1 The focus of this chapter is on the Philippines, and different contexts for action towards more ‘sustainable’ practices and policies.
Marlyne Sahakian

7. Conclusion: ‘The Future Is Already Here’

Abstract
This book has set out to explore existing air-conditioning consumption patterns and practices in Southeast Asia, with a view from Metro Manila to other mega-cities in the region. The general outlook appears bleak: total air-conditioning consumption will no doubt increase massively in Southeast Asia, in relation to population growth, increases in affluence and rampant urbanization. Climate change is both a consequence of and a catalyst for increased air-conditioning consumption: as the world becomes a hotter place, more people in the hottest regions of the world will turn to air-conditioning; in turn, the use of fossil-powered energy for electricity will continue to contribute to carbon emissions, with a global impact on the climate. While no silver bullet solution exists to curb the use of electricity for artificially cooled air, there are silver linings. As one interviewer so nicely put it, ‘The future is already here, I have seen it already.’1 Some of the possible solutions towards curbing air-conditioning consumption patterns and shifting practices towards passive cooling are already available, as discussed in this conclusion.
Marlyne Sahakian

Backmatter

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