Quotes of the Day: On the Evils of Air Conditioning

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A large air conditioner in a window beside sunflowers.

James Andrews / Getty Images

Air conditioning is not only an environmental problem, it is also a social problem. In a post about, air conditioning and urbanism, I wrote:

We should consider also the insidious effect of central air- how it enables the development of parts of the country previously uninhabitable and which would still be but for the constant cooling, and how it is destroying the street culture of areas already established. How we are sacrificing neighbourhood and community by forcing our immediate personal climate to adapt to us instead of us adapting to it.

Andrew Cox, the author of "Losing Our Cool: Uncomfortable Truths About Our Air-Conditioned World—and Finding New Ways to Get Through the Summer" (Amazon $18), is quoted:

Over about the past twenty years, when I would find myself in neighborhoods--in Florida, Georgia, Kansas--in summer, and would find the yards, sidewalks, and parks devoid of all human life. It was a sharp contrast to the scene when I was growing up in Georgia, and neighbors, especially kids, would spend all day outdoors, together, all summer long. At the same time that the isolating effect of air-conditioning was becoming apparent to me (and, I assume, to others), we were all becoming aware of the threat of global warming. Here, air-conditioning seemed to play a pivotal role, since with hotter weather, we would be relying even more on air-conditioning, which, through increased fossil fuel and refrigerant use, would accelerate warming, creating even greater demand for air conditioning."

William Saleton wrote about it in Slate:

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.

Barbara Flanagan wrote a great rant in ID magazine a few years ago, called A Cold Day In Hell:

What happens when humans treat themselves like dairy products chilled behind glass?
Civilization declines.
The proof is in Barcelona. Spend five glorious weeks in its barely mitigated heat, as I did last summer, then return home and refrigerate yourself in the relentless mono-temperature now anesthetizing the continent. Conclusion?
A/C is the killing frost sure to wilt the last fragile shoots of American culture.

Cameron Tonkinwise of The New School tells us that air conditioning kills.

Not necessarily because it falls out of buildings onto people's heads, (although that does happen) but because they are the result of lazy design. He calls them weeds, view destroying, and inefficient.

"The window air conditioner allows architects to be lazy. We don't have to think about making a building work, because you can just buy a box."