On black mould and the energy crisis

Tank Green/ November 20, 2022/ Thoughts

One of the reasons I don’t do much more than look at the headlines of mainstream media, is because when I read the actual articles, I usually get enraged by the logical incoherence of the article in the context of the overall narrative framing of the moment.

For instance, we have the tragic story of Awaab Ishak, who, a coroner has determined, died as a result of black mould in his home. Black mould is a serious health hazard, especially to people with respiratory conditions, and plagues a great many (rental) properties in the UK. One of the properties I lived in was so damp that maggots had somehow gotten into the foundations of the flat and literally ate their way out of the walls. Yes, you read that right: maggots came out of my walls. The bedroom was particularly affected, with two of the walls being so damp that they were literally covered in black mould from floor to ceiling. It obviously meant that I could not sleep in my bedroom; instead, I slept on the couch in the living room for 4 of the 6 months I lived in that hellhole.

When I complained to the agent, they claimed that it was my fault, that it was due to ‘my lifestyle’: I didn’t open the windows enough. When I explained that I open my windows for a few hours every day, even in the middle of winter, as I like fresh air, have cats, and know it’s good practice to circulate air, they shifted their position. It was now the result of me opening my windows too often, as if the mould crept in through the open windows by stealth. In the end, they evicted me via a Section 21 notice instead of doing anything about it. They also forged my signature on a fake inventory claiming there was no mould when I moved in. In fact, I had documented the presence of mould on my real initial inventory, which I had retained a copy of and presented to them as a reminder. Needless to say, landlords are cunts. Facts.

Anyway, black mould. Black mould loves damp and cold, something Britain is full of at the best of times. Worse, given the cost of living crisis with some people not even being able to afford to use the boiler to run a bath for their kids let alone put the heating on, we’re in for a winter of black mould. And lots of it. Good news for the the ‘we’re all going to die next week Wednesday if we don’t divest from fossil fuels’ folk I guess, since we can’t afford to use gas and electric anymore anyway.

I am nowhere near needing to kneel in a bath in an inch of boiled kettle water to wash myself, but I am afraid to turn my heating on, as I will struggle to pay for the energy bills even with the government discount applied. I am doing the whole ‘heat the human, not the home‘ thing with an electric throw on my couch in the evenings, a hot water bottle at night, and by wearing one to two jumpers and a hilariously oversized, fugly as all hell shacket. It’s okay for the moment; the worst thing is that my towels never dry which is GROSS.

Anyway, point is, there are loads of people in my situation, and significantly worse, in the UK at the moment, which is why I blew a gasket which I read that new guidance is being drawn up which will seek to blame tenant’s ‘lifestyle choices’ for the scourge of black mould. These so-called ‘lifestyle choices’ include ‘behavioural factors’ such as:

whether residents are taking enough steps to ensure their property is heated and ventilated, including using heating, running extraction fans and opening windows. Other factors they will be required to consider include whether people are exposing themselves to excessively low temperatures due to ignorance, a “stoic and often embedded attitude” to cold or desire to “reduce carbon emissions”, adds the guidance, developed for the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities in September.

Leaving aside the simple fact that many rental properties don’t even come with such luxuries as extractor fans, let’s put this steaming pile of enragement (please read in a French accent) into context. On the one hand, the government has allowed energy prices to become unaffordable to a great many people on this shitey, cold, damp island, despite the billions in profits companies like Shell, BP, and SSE, as well as the network operators are making. On the other, they’ve got a bunch of 14 to 34 year olds and their boomer groomers convinced they’re going to die from climate change next week. Both scenarios have the end result of people either not being able to afford heat their homes, or people trying to minimise the amount of energy they use. And now, it’ll be our fault if we die or become seriously ill from black mould, the presence of which is exacerbated by the landscape this useless government has set. Great. Just great.