It's Easy to Forget How Cool it is to Have Air Conditioning

It's Easy to Forget How Cool it is to Have Air Conditioning
image: livingstonairinc.com

Sunday’s 90 degree temperature-the hottest day of the year so far, here in Chicago-underscored something that we have come to take for granted. Air conditioning. A/C. The cool breeze.

Some of you may have no recollection of living without it, but we did. It wasn’t pretty, but we did what nature intended us to do in extreme heat; we sweated. A lot.

Broomhilda and I did the Vision Walk on Sunday (Foundation Fighting Blindness – a worthy cause, which I would urge you to consider supporting), and finished the walk “glowing.”  In truth, Broomhilda was glowing, I was sweating.

In typical chivalrous fashion, I went to retrieve the car from the far reaches of the forest preserve parking lot and brought it closer to where Broomhilda rested, under the shade of a huge maple tree. I left the car running with the A/C on MAX.

After extended goodbyes, we collected our dogs and walked the 10 or 15 yards to the car, opening our respective doors to a blast of Arctic air. Ahhhhhhhh.

Retreating from the mid-day heat into an air conditioned car offers immediate and welcome relief from the elements. Icy air blowing from the vents is like the electric shocks you see TV doctors administering in the ER. CLEAR!

We were instantly revived, before I even had a chance to arrange the dogs or slip the car into gear. It’s the epitome of instant gratification.

Not everyone has air conditioning, but here in the Midwest about 70% of homes have central air. Window units are still popular, especially among apartment dwellers.

Vast populations in desperately hot climates, like sub-Saharan Africa have no air conditioning.  Then again, many have no food.

As developing nations become more affluent and the planet heats up, worldwide air conditioning usage continues to rise. This presents a unique problem for the planet.

To put A/C into perspective, it is a luxury. Heat, on the other hand is a necessity. We can live without A/C, just not as comfortably.

If our homes were not heated, those of us in the northern part of the country could freeze to death in just a few hours. Driving in the winter would be all but impossible without heated cars, especially in snow storms. Imagine that the first cars weren’t even enclosed.

While the impact of getting into a heated car in the winter isn’t quite as dramatic as getting into an icy cold car in the summer, having heat in our cars is still something upon which we depend.  It may take several minutes of shivering before the car heater does its work, but it’s worth the wait.

I can remember two particularly bone-chilling nights, both involving tire changes in sub-zero weather. One of those flat tires belonged to an elderly couple stranded outside an IHOP in Skokie, IL on a night when they should have been home, in front of their fireplace.

In both cases though, the eventual warming of my car heater was indispensable.

Both air conditioning and heating are ways we have been able to control our environment. They keep us warm in the winter and comfortable in the summer. There is, however a cost for everything.

Now that we’ve conquered our indoor environment, we should think about addressing the harm we’ve caused to our outdoor environment.

The Paris Climate Accord was a significant step toward correcting some of the damage done to our environment in the continual advancement of mankind. It seemed like we, as a species had finally come to terms with our responsibility for the planet.  It was a collective look at the “man in the mirror.”

That was short lived.  As we learned this week, our president was elected to represent the people of St. Petersburg, not Paris.  The climate will have to fend for itself, just like the old, the sick and the poor.

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