Outdoor Heater Rant

On Tuesday night Yarra Council, spooked by an article in the Herald Sun, voted not to levy a $105 annual fee for publicans, café and restaurant owners who want to use outdoor heaters for their patrons. Unsurprisingly, the traders objected saying they couldn’t afford to pay the fee. The whole point of the exercise was to be a deterrent. The idea was that they would stop using the heaters and not pay the fee. It was supposed to be an incentive to be more innovative about keeping the outdoor patrons warm.

These heaters sit out on the footpath attempting to heat the winter air. All of it. Not only do they consume enormous amounts of gas (how much does that cost per year?) they emit greenhouse gases. When councillor Alison Clarke suggested the traders provide blankets for patrons instead, this was met with derision. Fancy using a blanket to warm you! What a crazy idea, when you can sit under a heater churning out heat, 90% of which is going straight up in the air. Obviously that makes more sense! Perhaps next time there’s a 40 degree day, we should put our fridges on a long lead, wheel them out onto the lawn, and open the door to cool us in the garden.

In Europe, where it is obviously a lot colder in winter, these heaters have been banned. Parisians put on a coat if they want to sit outside. Those crazy Europeans. What will they think of next?

Last weekend my partner and I went to the café at the Collingwood Children’s Farm. There are no options there. All the tables are outside. The patrons had chosen to sit outdoors, so they were all dressed appropriately for the weather. If they did feel chilly, there was a stack of knee rugs they could use. No one was demanding a heater.

This is a small issue, I know, but it is symptomatic of the lazy, wasteful, “someone else will take care of it” attitude that Australians have developed about reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It all adds up. It’s a few less tonnes that end up in the atmosphere. Every car journey we don’t have, every plasma TV not left on standby, every outdoor heater turned off does make a difference if everyone does it. It also shows our spineless government(s) that we are willing to do what it takes to prevent climate change and that we are able to change our behaviour to achieve it. Even if it does mean we have to put on a coat when it’s cold.