Let summer be summer, sans A/C

Check out one of my favorite stories from last week’s news. It’s a Times report on how air-conditioning has become—even for some folks in Florida—a luxury to be shunned. People are just shutting off the A/C and (imagine it!) dealing with the heat.

The Times opines that this is yet another effect of the recession. What other motivation, besides an economic one, could there possibly be for going without the chillers?

Personally, I think there are several. Air-conditioning is one of those extremely recent developments in human history that, in no time at all, has come to be seen as necessary to survival. (Gasoline and telephones are also in this camp.) I think it’s sad when people believe they are too weak in mind and body to endure any temperature below 60 or over 75. That’s a mighty narrow range. It’s like saying you can’t walk three blocks to your car, except it’s a lot more socially acceptable.

Doing without A/C saves energy, so it’s better for the planet; that’s obvious. But like a lot of green actions, it has the additional benefit of adding harmony to one’s life. Blasting yourself with artificial coolness, while the summer heat waits like a wolf outside your door, is kind of delusional. The weather is real. You can handle it a lot better than you may think, given a chance to acclimate. And smarter buildings can elegantly minimize indoor heat without the need for A/C. Those abrupt transitions in and out of refrigeration are the climatic equivalent of ranch dressing: They lack subtlety.

Here at the C-VILLE office, it’s no secret that I think our A/C is cranked way too high. I’m told it’s a tough system to control, but I keep on wishing I could dress for summer weather without risking frostbite at my desk. At lunchtime, I go outside and bask in the sun like a lizard, storing heat for the long chilly afternoon to come. What if we left our front door open, set up a fan here and there, and risked being a little warm on some days? Would that really kill us?

Anyone out there want to weigh in?

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