Humans and indoor heating didn't appear on Earth at the same time.
I was standing outside with a friend, watching snow fall.
"It's funny," my friend mused. "After all this time, we're still just wrapping ourselves in blankets to keep warm."She was right. After all our scientific revolutions, we still can't find a better method for keeping warm than wrapping ourselves in fabric. And that's because blankets are incredibly effective, provided you have the right sorts of blankets.
I have a giant coat stuffed with down (sorry birds). When I wear a fleece under it, I can be toasty in any weather. When the Midwest hit -40 °F and °C (that's right — it got so cold enough that Fahrenheit and Celsius froze together) with windchill a few weeks ago, I threw on a fleece, my coat, two pairs of wool socks and some heavy duty gloves. I went for a walk and didn't even feel cold.
And yet, I have a number of friends who shiver in their autumn coats all winter. When I try to explain the wonders of heavy-duty winter coats, they don't believe me. One friend told me people couldn't survive without indoor heating.
"If electricity disappeared, everyone in cold climates would freeze to death," she told me, as though humans hadn't lived in the Arctic 10,000 years before the invention of heaters.
"Wouldn't they just wear heavier coats and make fires?" I asked her.
"I didn't think of that," she replied.
It's like people have forgotten that indoor heating isn't the only way to keep warm. They seem to think coats are nice, but not really that effective, so they buy fashionable autumn jackets instead of real coats. (If you Google "winter coats" you get a bunch of photos of trench coats, pea coats and parkas.) Then they spend all winter darting between heated, indoor spaces.
Staying indoors all winter may be cozy, but it's not great for physical or psychological health. People who stay indoors miss out on exercise and sunlight, turning winter into a nightmare. You can only stay inside so long before you start feeling and acting like a rat in a cage.
I feel a bit bad about using down to keep warm. But at least I have the comfort of knowing the whole bird is used — down is generally a byproduct of the food industry; the geese and ducks whose feathers I stole are sold and eaten. And I plan on wearing my coat for years, perhaps a lifetime.
Granted, good quality winter coats are pricey, usually costing at least $100. But they're much less expensive at thrift stores. And now that winter is winding down, winter coats will start going on sale. Besides, they're an investment. A good coat will last a lifetime, and many sellers, like Eddie Bauer, will replace your coat for free if it wears out. My dad bought one such coat decades ago and has been wearing free replacements ever since.
But no matter how many articles tell people to invest in good quality winter gear, people just don't seem to believe. Maybe they need to try it for themselves.