We live in a world marked, and increasingly marred, by climate change. A key challenge for human beings will be to adapt their dress code to warmer temperatures. Stephan Richter suggests taking heed of the new political and economic realities as global power shifts south and east: Put an end to the European and American style of wearing jackets and ties and adopt Southeast Asian dress customs.
The basic facts are pretty well known by now: Nine of the 10 warmest years since systematic recordkeeping began in 1880 have all occurred
since the year 2000. So far, 2012 seems hell-bent on taking its place at the top of the list.
Clearly, the human race will need to undertake some dramatic long-term actions to curb the degree of global warming. But you are likely to lose your cool waiting for the United States, China and major international organizations to take these actions.
So I propose another, short-term remedy: the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) should step forward and urge the worldwide adoption of the region's "no-coat, no-tie" dress code practiced by most men in these tropical climes during summertime. It would be even better to implement the shirt-outside-the-pants approach, as is the traditional style in Indonesia, Thailand and elsewhere in the region.
In short, led by ASEAN, we should do everything and anything to reduce body temperature. The less the body gets heated up by superfluous layers of clothing, the lower the need for air-conditioning (and hence energy use).
Any doubters should consider the new political and economic realities. As the center of global economic gravity shifts both south and east, it is high time to put an end to the European and American style of wearing coat jackets even in the summer doldrums.
As a further reform measure, let's also put an end to the male practice of wearing tight-fitting dress shoes during the summer months, which only raise the body temperature higher. Just as taking a tie off or wearing no jacket reduces the body temperature by some degrees, so does wearing sandals.
Asian friends, when asked why they have not yet taken that additional step toward wearing sandals yet, initially demur. They acknowledge that this would undoubtedly be healthy for the feet, but they will also tell you wistfully that it is probably due to their inclination to hold on at least for a little while longer to the remaining vestiges imposed by the colonial powers in decades past.
So here, in the spirit of addressing global climate change through mitigation via changed human behavior patterns, is my call, first, on all Westerners: Follow the shirt and no-tie dress code of Southeast Asia. And to all Southeast Asians: Abandon the last vestiges of colonial rule and/or oppression — and leave those dress shoes at home. Pack a pair of sandals.
The implementation of this sensible climate adaptation idea would also put an end to a rather peculiar aspect of East-West dialogue. Ushered into the meeting room, a Westerner can often overhear a hectic conversation behind the doors outside regarding the dress code: Do we need to put on a jacket to meet that guy in there?
Invariably, the staff-offered advice to the Western is that, since the guest is from the United States or Europe, it would be better for the host to wear a jacket, supposedly because Westerners prefer it that way.
No such deference is either warranted — nor is it desirable. As goes the world economy, so ought to go the power to set the global dress code.
The pace of current world events is heated up enough. Keeping everybody's temperature lower can only be conducive to keep the ensuing conversation or negotiation sufficiently cool-headed.
This will do amazing things — and not just for the environment because of a reduction in the use of air-conditioning. Better yet, the world's women would for once appreciate the leadership shown by men to end the discrimination in the jacket versus no-jacket battles.