No surprise that with a sustained heat wave upon us, air-conditioning use is at a high across the country. (The Pope is also still Catholic).
But as we live, so we burn. As William Saletan in Slate puts it in one of those killing joke, laugh-at-your-peril conundrum stories I happen to love:
“Thank goodness for air conditioning. To keep old folks alive, cities from Washington to Los Angeles are opening artificially cooled buildings to the public…
It’s a heartwarming—or, more precisely, a heart-cooling—story. Unfortunately, the story doesn’t end there. Air conditioning takes indoor heat and pushes it outdoors. To do this, it uses energy, which increases production of greenhouse gases, which warm the atmosphere. From a cooling standpoint, the first transaction is a wash, and the second is a loss. We’re cooking our planet to refrigerate the diminishing part that’s still habitable.“
Reminds me of whenever I drive to my in-laws’ house on a hot summer day. As I leave the tree-depleted, interstate-paved urban suburbs to the “exurbs” where they live, I always notice the temperature drop as the trees provide cool shelter around me. And these issues inevitably come to mind.
But any fretting about wasted/abused/dwindling resources aside, I’m fascinated by what life may be like in 70 years, just as–in the midst of this broiling heat–I’m fascinated by what life was like before air conditioning. I know I for one would have been a lazy, heat-sapped sloth in the pre-air-conditioning 1920s. But then my shoddy immune system probably would have put me out of my misery, too.