We're sickening ourselves in air-conditioned comfort

July 10, 2022 | 04:32 pm PT
Pham Xuan Anh Engineer
I recently took on a part-time job as an air-conditioning installer. After doing this for a while, I have become concerned about our health and quality of life.

These days, the face of my hometown has changed dramatically with a plethora of new buildings from schools to hospitals. At first, they all look eye-catching and modern, but if we take a closer look, they are all giant concrete cubes.

Among the new projects is a kindergarten. There is a serious lack of trees and many classrooms that are exposed to the afternoon sun. The only option, therefore, is to equip them with air-conditioning.

Why are people are so obsessed with concrete buildings and air conditioning? Is it because we used to live in shanties and walk on muddy dirt roads for so long that now we all think that concrete buildings with flat roofs and air conditioning is high-class living?

Well, that high class does not sound right to me when I consider the situation of outdoor temperatures rising to almost 40 degrees Celsius but the indoor, air-conditioned room is kept at 26 degrees and lower. If we get used to living like this, we will all get sick sooner or later.

When I was a student, I was lucky that my school was covered with many trees that gave us shade, cooled down temperatures and created so many beautiful memories that we could carry along into adulthood.

Why aren't we having trees inside schools these days? Is it because of a few cases in which large trees fell in the schoolyard and threatened students' safety? If so, this is a foolish, extreme reaction.

If we planted shade trees as saplings in designated places, we would not have to worry about their falling down decades later. In many cases, people have relocated fully grown trees in order to ensure enough green space in their projects and this can make them unstable and prone to falling.

Isn't it ironic that we have many universities and forestry institutes, but even now, many schools have no idea what type of trees they should plant on their premises so as to ensure safety and shade for the children at the same time?

We should get really serious about viable green spaces for public projects like schools and hospitals.

To approve a project, authorities must require investors to set aside significant space for trees and lakes in the campus, and minimize construction of buildings that get exposed to harsh sunlight.

For projects that have already been completed and put into use, like the kindergarten I have mentioned, trees should be planted along the path from the gate to the classes and inside the schoolyard.

Classrooms exposed to the sun should have burma padauk, ironwood (hopea odorata) or other similar trees to create shade and enhance campus aesthetics. We need all stakeholders to be truly determined about creating as much green space for our children as possible.

I install air-conditioning for a living so, obviously, I do not want to lose customers. However, we have to face up to the fact that air-conditioning is almost always a luxury and it would be wise of us not to make it a necessity.

We have to ensure that we are a healthy community and for this, we need to learn to live in harmony with nature. This is the path that people in the modern age should take.

*Pham Xuan Anh is an engineer in the northern province of Bac Ninh. The opinions expressed are his own.

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