If one is lucky to have been born in the US, chances are they have the luxury of a warm shower every day.
Maybe not everyone, but many, and no one gives it a second thought. For most people, it’s the norm.
Not that long ago in human history, it would have been considered a luxury . . . and for many, many humans, it’s still considered a luxury.
I sometimes discuss things with people (yes, it’s true). Often I am amazed at the perspective people have about the world around them . . . and I don’t mean in a good way.
Take daily hot showers . . . I hear someone say it is something every human should have access to. After all, how much can it cost?
Funny they should ask . . . what does it cost to provide this luxury that some think should be available to all?
I just threw this together using an amalgamation of average usages for the US, current world population, number of adults, and energy estimates from a few different sources. One is invited to do their own research. It could be the numbers vary slightly depending on the source; when I had multiple sources, I averaged the numbers.
So, let’s review this luxury that some say should be something every human has access to.
The world population clock gives the number of humans (at the time I did the spreadsheet) as 7.269 billions. At the time of this writing it is 7.272 billions; adjust accordingly.
I’m trying to be conservative here, so I assumed only adults would actually shower every day (if a luxury is available, adults will avail themselves to it – kids have no sense of what is a luxury, so they might think nothing of it), and for these calculations I used the estimate that 2/3 of the world population consists of individuals 15 years of age and over.
I would have used 18, but by assuming 15, I take into account some teens might shower. I think I am being conservative with my assumptions, but one can make their own assumption; I won’t argue them. In actuality, a number of teens probably do shower every day, and I am discounting smaller kids taking baths. As I said, conservative.
Anyway, that leaves 4.846 billion adult/showers per day, or 1.769 trillion showers per year.
The shower averages vary, with 10 minutes being the middle of the two extremes I found. Not included in the spreadsheet, but the average cost per shower where I live (Colorado – based on a Natural Gas water heater) is 42¢. That works out to about $742 million as the cost for each adult to shower each day of the year(if they all live in Colorado).
But, let’s look further.
The average Btu per shower is 22,000, or 39,913 trillion Btu per year.
I did not have a reliable conversion for natural gas, but I did find it for oil.
39,913 trillion Btu convert to 6.709 billion barrels of oil per year.
You like coal as opposed to oil? That would be 2.012 billion short tons of coal per year.
Finally, the average shower consumes 25 gallons of water . . . adults showering every day would consume 44.2 trillion gallons of water each year.
Now, baths are a different matter . . . they use more water, more energy, are less efficient. No one should be allowed to take baths if we have showers available.
Why did I mention this?
Because to me the argument I heard that everyone should have access to a daily hot shower is somewhat equivalent to “why don’t they eat cake?” statement. It points to a lack of understanding of reality.
I only looked at the raw cost in terms of existing infrastructure, but that’s a very superficial estimate of cost. Someone would have to lay more pipe, dig more coal (or build equivalent ‘green’ energy producing systems), clean more water, dispose of said waste water, maintain said infrastructure . . . and so on.
And we’re not even considering the environmental impact of all this additional energy use.
. . . most of all, this is just for ONE luxury that someone think is should be the equivalent of a right.
Look, I am the first to stand up and say everyone is entitled to what everyone else is entitled to; in a closed society, perhaps we could do that.
The reality is that a luxury for some always comes at someone else’s expense. Always.
Not just hot showers, but a dry climate controlled home, a reliable vehicle to get to and from work, the sandwich one half eats, discarding the rest. The convenience of a plastic (and disposable) water bottle, the cup of overpriced coffee, the “free” wi-fi . . . you name it, and no matter how mundane, no matter how little thought one gives to it, it is a luxury someone else does not have . . . because we can’t provide it for all.
Should we? . . . perhaps; it’s not for me to say.
Where I asked, I do have an answer . . . maybe, if we could control the population growth; maybe, if we could all agree that is a priority; maybe, if we had no wars; maybe, if we had no religion; maybe, if humans weren’t so damn greedy, tribalistic, nationalistic, mean, competitive, and downright selfish.
But more so than all that, is the fact that we are where we are not because of a grand plan, a concerted effort, but rather happenstance. And once someone has something, they are very reluctant to give it up. Especially when those who ask for sacrifices, themselves are not sacrificing much (politicians, celebrities, assholes in general).
We are muddling through stuff, and while one might think not buying that morning coffee could provide showers for 10 people that day, there is no realistic way to get that money applied to the shower-a-day goal. Also, if enough people do that, perhaps the local coffee shop closes, and some people who used to afford showers, now are more worried about paying rent.
There are no easy answers, and I am not saying this to make excuses for the largesse in my life. I recognize both how lucky I am to be living where I do, and recognize the fact that improvements to the human condition consists of two steps forward, and one back.
Yey, there are more people doing better, percentage wise, than in any point in human history, and we will continue to make strides . . . except, they are not strides; they are baby steps.
. . . and always, someone’s luxury will mean someone else goes without. Enjoy your latte.
Edited to Add: I did not mean for the last statement to sound like a slam or an accusation. I really did mean you should enjoy your latte, recognize it for the luxury it is, revel on the pleasure of it. For additional perspective, Google(TM) “first world problems”.
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