Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Hot Weather

We're pretty comfortable today inside the house. It is 101 degrees outside, and 77 in here, with windows closed, shades drawn and ceiling fans on. We're lucky to have a good house for this - the newer part of the house is tremendously well insulated, and the older part, is, for reasons completely inexplicable to me, cool in the summer while it is cold in the winter. The dogs have dug a den under the porch and seem happy there. But even when we lived in a fourth floor apartment, we could manage with regular cool showers, window fans and trips to the movies. We had an air conditioner for a while - and then my cat, Entropy (now long deceased) had a horrible incontinent period as he was dying, and peed in the air conditioner. The scent of cat-urine processed cool air was not worth the price.

But the heat is frustrating and scary, not least because it leads us to the worst kinds of short-term thinking. I can't count the people I know who say they "need" air conditioning - even though air conditioning emits greenhouse gasses at a rate that means that their kids are only going to need it much worse. We're unwilling to endure even the shortest term discomfort for long term security.

Not to mention the fact that everything feels worse when you come out of air conditioning. Unless you are in serious danger of health consequences, find other ways, particularly here in the Northeast. And remember, it is temporary. Winter will be here soon enough.



MEA said...

Sharon, so much of the time I agree with you but on this I can't some people really do need air conditioning. Perhaps they wouldn't if they weren't in big, hot cities. Perhaps they wouldn't if they were very old, or very young, or weren't ill. Perhaps they should have found a way to control their lives so that they wouldn't die without AC. But they are, and they haven't, and they do...and has the price of cooling grows, more and more will.



Barbara said...

I live in Oklahoma where, in living memory, lots of people lived without air conditioning. I'm not doing without it, but I've changed drastically how I use it. This summer I use the a/c to cool the house somewhat at night (nights don't cool off much in the summer), and knock the edge off the daytime heat, 100-110F.

My grandmother in southeastern Pennsylvania keeps her house closed up and dark (drapes drawn) all summer, runs a whole house fan at night to draw in the cooler air, spends the days on the cooler main floor of her house, and uses a window a/c unit on the most miserable of days. I think that's a great approach on a limited income when you're elderly and in poor health. And family and neighbors ought to gather in such folks when the weather is particularly intolerable.

In our house, we need to properly shade and insulate our big southwest-facing side of the house. With that and the addition of one more ceiling fan and a wall fan in my sons' room, I think we'd be able to let nearly all of the a/c use go and still be comfortable enough.

jewishfarmer said...

MEA, That's why I said "unless you are in danger of serious health consequences" - there are certainly people who need air conditioning, and they should have it. But not nearly as many people as those who *think* they need air conditioning. The very old, very young and the ill do not consitute the majority of the air conditioning users - in fact, in many cases, they are less likely to have it even if they need it. Again, to me this is just the same old common sense thing - we can't all have it. Air conditioning gasses are simply too dangerous to be putting into the environment casually, and we're not all going to be able to afford to run them (or even be able to have the grid stay up when it is hot) - so the people who are best able to endure without air conditioning need to do so - period.

I would also note that the people who die in heat waves tend to be people who don't have a support system - with help, even without a/c, no one needs to die from heat prostration, or suffer heat stroke. For example, when I've had an infant in very hot weather, we often go into cool baths several times a day. We nurse more and stay in cool places. When I cared for my husband's grandfather, who was a prime candidate for heatstroke, since by the time he was in his 90s he wanted to wear a sweater when it was 100 degrees, we made sure he was well hydrated, stayed cool, was bathed regularly, and were able to maintain his body temperature.

I'm not denying that there are some few people in the world who simply can't live without air conditioning. There are many more, who given help, support and the right information could live perfectly well without air conditioning, but whose lives are improved enormously by it. And then there's most of us - who can suck it up and should.


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