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Last summer on a family trip we visited a South Dakota tourist attraction called “1880 Town,” a collection of buildings rescued from dying prairie towns. It was miserably hot – soupy as Washington DC, too – and the weather put a stifling hand on the entire village. In the town’s little bank the metal bars of the teller’s cage almost took off skin when you touched it. Imagine living then with the prevailing dress-codes – 47 layers of wool – and imagine sitting in one of the houses rocking a baby carriage back and forth, praying for October. People shot each other just because the bullets made a nice breeze.
We sighed with joy when we entered the air-conditioned gift shop, but that’s because we’re bad people who don’t care about the planet. Air-conditioning? Bad? Of course: If it’s something you regard as a boon of modern life, a miracle that sets us apart from the toiling ancients who trudged through the slough of human history, it’s something that some pecksniffing scold wants us to rethink and reject. Yes: air conditioning is now on the list of things for which our hearts must hang like a pound of coal, heavy with castigating despond. From Salon:
. . . as science writer Stan Cox argues in his new book, “Losing Our Cool: Uncomfortable Truths About Our Air-Conditioned World (and Finding New Ways to Get Through the Summer),” the dizzying rise of air conditioning comes at a steep personal and societal price.
In the most general, abstract, and subjective sense, of course. To sum it up: AC makes us stay inside and get fat. It contributes to global warming. It makes people move to the South and this breeds Republicans. (Really. One could make the same argument about heat: it lets people move to colder climes, where they concentrate into megalopolises and vote Democratic, but it’s unlikely you will find a conservative making the point.)
The author does not have air conditioning, preferring to have fans, or perhaps a servant moving the air around with a giant array of ostrich feathers. (Thus does banning AC increase employment! It practically killed the man-powered air-circulation industry dead overnight.) He would like the government to make everyone else live like he does, of course:
Besides people changing their individual habits, do you feel like the government needs to intervene in the way we use air conditioning?
“I think that we need to be changing a lot of the features of our society that have helped make us dependent on air conditioning in the first place. In the end, someone will have to put some very hard limits on energy consumption and emissions overall.”
Someone! Interesting choice of words. They’re always looking for a man on a horse. Or a Prius.
The beauty of arguing with people like this: chances are the past is a chamber of horrors for them for other reasons. If they argue against AC, then surely they believe the pre-AC world had superior virtues – people ate less (because they were too exhausted to bring a fork to mouth) and didn’t move to the South to fall under the sway of the Gingrich Ray, and used less resources. But those were racist times. Sexist times. Are you saying you’d rather we went back to unairconditioned segregated lunch counters where women could only be waitresses, never managers, and magazines tittered about Liberace’s private life? Are you? It’s a ridiculous argument, of course, but if you made it with a straight face and the proper amount of Concern in your voice, he’d feel compelled to give you a thoughtful answer.
Can’t resist this:
I have a theory that if we could require Congress to meet two days per week during the summer session out under a canopy on the Capitol lawn, that they might want to deal with ecological reality a little more straightforwardly than when they are sitting in the air-conditioned rooms inside.
It’s hot in DC partly because of air conditioning, you see. Congress would surely do something about global warming then. (Before jetting off to a climate summit in Dubai, that is.) I actually think it would be a good idea as well: the potential for Congress quitting business after two days is delightful to consider.Published in