After months of cold Canadian weather, I greet the summer heat with open arms, even if it's uncomfortable at times.
The one time I turned on the air conditioning in my home, I nearly had a panic attack. There was a heat warning in effect for the day, and I had decided to tackle the heat preemptively by turning on the A/C at 6 a.m. Off came the bulky cover, on went the circuit breaker, and the guts of our old home rumbled and gurgled to life. Within minutes, cool air was pouring out of the vents and I sat down comfortably to work at my computer.
By 6:30 a.m., however, I was feeling anxious, even panicky. Outside my window, I could see a beautiful breeze bending the trees, but I couldn’t feel anything because all the windows were closed. Suddenly I felt like I was living in a vacuum, utterly disconnected from what was happening outside. I stuck it out for another half hour, at which point I was so depressed that I switched off the A/C, flung open the windows, and returned to connecting with the day. It turned out to be lovely, albeit a bit sticky.
Despite having central air in our home, my husband and I never use it. Instead, we rely on the double-brick walls of our century home, the relatively few windows, rooms that are small and dim, electric fans at night, and the tall leafy trees on the surrounding property. It’s made easier by the fact that we live in a small town and Lake Huron is just down the hill, often with a gentle wind coming off the water. There’s a beach where we can swim, and an outdoor shower in our backyard where the kids love to cool off.
Admittedly, it would be a lot tougher to manage without A/C if we lived in an urban setting, surrounded by asphalt, vehicles, and tall buildings. As fellow TreeHugger writer Lloyd Alter has recently admitted, it’s not realistic to expect city-dwellers to go without air conditioning entirely. Rather, there should be greater emphasis placed on reducing reliance on mechanical cooling.
But I do think that A/C is overused. Many people rush to turn up the A/C at the slightest indication that the day will be hot, even to the point where they have to wear sweaters indoors in order to feel comfortable. And yet, we Canadians spend so much of the year complaining about how cold it is!
Summer is so brief and fleeting up here on the 45th parallel that I prefer to revel in it, enjoying the heat in all its ephemeral stickiness and sweatiness, because I know it won’t last long. Before I know it, I’ll be back to wearing woolly socks and sipping mugs of hot tea while the house gets whipped by Huron’s wild snowstorms.