The following is from the preface to Losing Our Cool:
In the pages that follow, I will not be arguing that air- conditioning has created the world of economic and ecological peril in which we have come to live. I do maintain that with energy at the root of the biggest crises we face, air- conditioning must be dealt with as a subject of debate, not as a fait accompli. To wrestle with the question of air-conditioning is to confront the staggering task we face in keeping the world habitable for humans.
Some of the ills that follow in the wake of air-conditioning—resource waste, climate change, ozone depletion, and disorientation of the human mind and body—call for cures more complex than simply producing more energy-efficient devices or more atmosphere-friendly refrigerants . . . (more)Air-conditioning has also been an important tool in creating a society shot through with unsustainable trends: settlements of large human populations in fragile environments; an imbalance between indoor and outdoor life; buildings designed for dependence on high energy input; suburbanization, “mansionization,” and the oversized car and commuter cultures; recklessly accelerated production and consumption; enhanced military power; and even the political shocks that have hit this country in recent decades. None of those trends will be reversed overnight.
I stopped living with air- conditioning when I moved from the South to the Midwest on my twenty- first birthday. I have spent most of my life since then in places with intensely hot summers—including central Kansas and southern India—and have not missed refrigerated air. Please don’t misread me: I am not an ascetic, a Stoic, a Luddite, a miser, an “econag,” or a person of unmeltable moral fiber. I’ve lived this way because I prefer it; for an explanation, I can do no better than quote the anonymous apartment resident who once told comfort researchers, “We don’t use the air conditioner because it makes it too