Thursday, October 6, 2011

Losing My Cool


How much do we really need air-conditioning? Stan Cox, author of Losing Our Cool, argues that Americans rely too much on air conditioning, and research shows that we resilient humans can acclimate to higher temperatures than we think.

In my house, anything higher than 70 degrees is “hot” even with fans blowing full-blast. By 2 a.m., my teeth are chattering, and I beg my parents to turn down the air-conditioning. I don’t know about other Chicagoans, but apart from the one week we usually have in late-July when we hit 100 degrees with heavy humidity, I never use the air-conditioning in my car. I actually prefer natural wind from open windows to the frigid air circulated through my car’s vents.

Certainly, in the sun, the atmosphere can get stuffy, but what about enjoying our natural environment?


A friend of mine lives in Baltimore, and, interestingly, Maryland has developed a “stoop” culture in which folks who live on the upper-floors of the 18th- and 19th-century three-flats migrate to their front stoops to avoid the rising heat and humidity that overwhelms their window-installed air-conditioners. We walked through the streets of Baltimore on Memorial Day (a fairly mild time of the year for Chicago) in 80 degree weather with 90% humidity, and almost every stoop was occupied by those who lived on the second and third floors of their buildings. Despite the heat, the stoop occupants were friendly.

What if we could adopt something like this for Chicago? Why don’t we turn our air-conditioners off for most of the summer and make a pilgrimage to the outside world and say “hello” to passers-by?

If the folks of Maryland can handle their four to five month high humidity percentages, certainly, we can deal without air conditioning. After all, we’re cooped up inside for half the year due to our long, arduously cold winters, why don’t we enjoy the outside, regardless of the mild heat?

View the original article that discusses Stan Cox's view on air-conditioning here.

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