A Post-Air-Conditioning World

Hi Readers! Stan Cox, author of the new book, “Losing Our Cool: Uncomfortable Truths About Our Air-Conditioned World (and Finding New Ways to Get Through the Summer),” wrote a great oped for The Washington Post last summer about what life would be like if we still sweltered. As a person who is always freezing, I LOVE the idea of an un-airconditioned world, not just because it would allow me to peel off several (dozen) cardigans, but also because I believe in what Cox preaches: That when we HAVE to go outside for relief, we gain a lot more than a cool breeze. We regain the whole idea of neighborhood. And we regain a season! As he writes in his oped:

Saying goodbye to A.C. means saying hello to the world. With more people spending more time outdoors — particularly in the late afternoon and evening, when temperatures fall more quickly outside than they do inside — neighborhoods see a boom in spontaneous summertime socializing.

Rather than cowering alone in chilly home-entertainment rooms, neighbors get to know one another. Because there are more people outside, streets in high-crime areas become safer. As a result of all this, a strange thing happens: Deaths from heat decline. Elderly people no longer die alone inside sweltering apartments, too afraid to venture outside for help and too isolated to be noticed. Instead, people look out for one another during heat waves, checking in on their most vulnerable neighbors.

Children — and others — take to bikes and scooters, because of the cooling effect of air movement. Calls for more summer school and even year-round school cease. Our kids don’t need more time inside, everyone agrees; they need the shady playgrounds and water sprinklers that spring up in every neighborhood.

Okay — he sounds a little hokey. But only because we’ve become so divorced from the idea that we can stand a little discomfort that we dismiss the idea that we really COULD be happier while sweatier.

I’m not sure how to bring this revolution about, since we already live without a.c. in my house and it’s not like anyone seems eager to follow our lead. (Or visit in July.)  But it’s something to think about, while our teeth chatter next to the A.C. vent. — Lenore

I'd trade a.c. for a day like this.

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