I remember once speaking with a woman who moved to Washington, D.C., just after World War II. She explained what a small town it had been prior to that and I wondered why. "No air conditioning!" she replied. I think she was on to something.
The Wall Street Journal has a fascinating look at the history of air conditioning today. It really is remarkable what a recent invention it is. Not to mention some of the unintended consequences:
As with all major inventions, air conditioning has had profound consequences. Washington, D.C., used to be nearly deserted in the summer because of the city's notorious heat and humidity. Today, the government runs year-round. That's not necessarily progress.
In the first half of the 20th century, the South was an economically backward part of the country with a large net emigration, mostly to the North. In 1950, the states of the old Confederacy had only 127 electoral votes.
But with the end of segregation, the growth of the global economy and air conditioning, the New South began to rise. Today the Confederate states have 160 electoral votes. Texas gained four votes in the last 10 years, Florida two. The outcome of presidential races this year and in the future could well turn on the fact that Willis Carrier invented air conditioning a century ago.
The key to human progress most certainly has to be in living in temperate climates. The opposite must be true, too.
What if we banned air conditioning and heaters in Washington, D.C.? I live here. There are certainly no more than five months a year tops where people could work to take away your freedom if we didn't have air conditioning or heaters. Let's do this thing.