Not the usual sort of picture you see on this blog

by Rob Lewis

Our former colleague continues his energy-saving observations from around the world.

There’s no getting around it. If, by the end of this century, the world has gone to the dogs and only a small fraction of current population levels still walks the face of a hot and inhospitable planet, our descendents will surely look back at Dubai as the place that most epitomises how it all went wrong.

On the last flight of our trip we had a 16-hour stopover in Dubai, en route to Jordan, from where we would cycle home – an excellent chance to see for ouselves the folly of mankind.

Dubai is a city risen from the desert. Based on the boom in the financial services sector and tax breaks galore, it has lured a host of international corporations. Dubai is all about excess, reflected in a name which ironically encourages consumption. And consume it does: from the designer goods sold in its enormous shopping centres to the vast quantities of energy needed to keep its buildings cool enough for human habitation.

Dubai is well known for the scale of its building projects and there isn’t an Energy Saving Trust design guide in sight. In addition to the tallest building in the world, Dubai also has a number of offshore projects involving the building of new land masses out at sea – with names like as The Palm, The World, and now The Universe.
These are all designed with little or no consideration for their environmental implications. They assert mankind’s dominance over nature, rather than trying to use principles such as passive design, which works with natural forces. I took a trip to the Brj Khalifa, at 828 metres the tallest building in the world. This skyscraper uses a staggering 150 megawatts of power, equivalent to about 10% of the power produced by a new-generation nuclear reactor. It was not an easy visit.

Coming out of the train station I attempted to walk to the Burj and was confronted with 16 lanes of traffic to cross. The only way there was via a bus that takes 15 minutes to arrive only 500 metres away. The city seen from the viewing platform on the 127th floor was like a model city: nothing seemed real, the colours like an over-brightened plasma screen TV.

This is a city of energy proglifacy the likes of which I have never seen. In Dubai, when the weather is 50 degrees you can cool off by going for a spot of skiing at an indoor ski dome. Even the bus shelters are air-conditioned.

And that’s not so cool.

Next stop: some good news from Israel

It was interesting to discover that Israel doesn’t import any fruit or vegetables. This protectionist measure is designed to help the farming industry, and is rarely seen elsewhere in these times of free trade.

Interestingly, it also means that all Israelis eat seasonally and locally. Food miles aren’t something to Israelis  have to consider in their grocery shop.

And the food is fantastic, so I definitely wasn’t complaining! Anyone for falafel?

See Rob’s travel blog for more travel updates as he and his wife cycle from New Zealand to London.