Since I started Climate Summer on June 8, I vowed to try my best to take cold showers whenever I showered. If the shower I was using had a valve that went from cold to hot, the goal was to turn the valve just enough to get a full stream of water—and no more. If I was using a garden hose, a river, or a stream, the goal was to simply jump in.
Why did I decide to take cold showers? I have read many times before that taking cold showers doesn’t dry out your skin or hair like hot showers do, that cold showers improve your body’s circulation by forcing warm blood to maintain the body’s normal temperature, and that cold showers allow you to increase your tolerance for a cold climate. They also save the wood, coal, natural gas, propane, solar panels, wind turbines, or other energy source required to warm the water. (Granted, in the grand scheme of the electricity bill, the price of warming water for a brief shower is negligible; you’d be much more effective insulating your home or living in a smaller square footage).
Having cold showers is, as per all of the above, a desirable endeavor–but it’s also hard – at least at first. After a few initial trials, I realized that the shock of cold water was often too high to stay in for any significant amount of time, so I developed a few strategies to successfully stay in the water. The first included exposing first my feet to the water, then my legs, then hands and arms, then my head, and finally my torso. Another was to first get in the shower with the water slightly less cold than I could handle, then gradually turning it as cold as it could get. Third was to breathe slowly through my diaphragm while using the shower.
Eventually, I began to relate cold showers to a few life lessons. For one, cold showers are something many people do not try to do. Sometimes, after prudent research, it is very beneficial to go against convention or mainstream ideology. For instance, the American status quo seems to accept more fossil fuel infrastructure, but Climate Summer -after researching that more fossil fuel infrastructure would fuel climate change – is instead pushing for conservation, efficiency, and renewables.
Another lesson is that although cold showers were not comfortable at first, they are becoming more and more comfortable and enjoyable for me every time I take one; my comfort range has increased to include hot water, warm water, and cold water. Likewise, many endeavors in life -like public speaking at an anti-fossil fuel rally -are uncomfortable at first, but get easier and more enjoyable the more you do it. Trying new things that at first might make you uncomfortable is a useful habit.
Finally, cold showers force you to appreciate the western, modern ubiquity of warm water. Although cold showers are enjoyable – eventually – they help you not take warm water for granted. They help you appreciate the energy used to raise the temperature of the water, acknowledge that not everyone in the world has access to warm water, and realize that cold showers might eventually be more enjoyable to you than hot or warm showers. Likewise, riding a bicycle for 40 miles – although fun and invigorating – helps you not take motorized transportation for granted. It helps you realize that 40 miles is actually a long distance, that fossil fuels have a large (and limited) energy density that should not be used lightly, and that riding a bicycle might eventually be more enjoyable than driving a motorized vehicle.
Just like I decided to try cold showers, I encourage you to critically think about a modern norm (like fossil fuel infrastructure), to try something new (like bicycle commuting to work or sending a letter to your government representatives), or to try to think of something that you might take for granted.
If you do decide to try something new, remember to do your research, to persevere using different strategies, and to breathe and try to relax if the going gets rough.