So it was with a little annoyance that I read in the New York Times last week an article about people around the country who have decided to face the recession and protect the environment by giving up their air conditioning. Say what? The reporter interviewed folks from Florida and Tennessee as well as Brooklyn and other places who have decided that paying $2,500 a year for air-conditioning was a budget breaker; they'd rather sweat instead. (Never mind giving up cable or that unused gym membership or simply turning the thermostat up a few degrees.) Although their children have come to hate them, these brave souls have discovered the old-fashioned joys of seasonal life. They live outside in the evenings, ignoring TVs and computers (and mosquitos and roaches, too, apparently). They say they get used to the heat after a few days and cope by drawing the shades, drinking more water, sitting beneath fans, and dressing down. The implication of the article is, of course, "Imagine how much better the world would be if we all gave up that evil modern invention of artificially chilled air."
My initial response to the article is unprintable in a family blog, but you can guess it I am sure. Every year the Times prints some article disdaining the climate control that makes life in most of the southern and western sections of this nation bearable for modern living nine months out of the year. And I never notice articles that suggest the benefits of giving up, say, refrigeration and the flush toilet, inventions that wield an equally large impact on the environment. I don't care how hot it gets in Memphis; I'm pretty sure that it is not regularly 105 degrees in the shade as it has been here for weeks.
That said, the reporter smartly gave herself an out by thinking of the pets. Animals, it turns out, can't handle extreme heat. Sitting in front of a box fan with a glass of tea with melted ice cubes won't cut it for them, she says, providing as proof an anecdote of a cat that had heat stroke while living in an unair-conditioned flat in Brooklyn. The message being that A/C is, of course, essential if you have pets. Well, thank you very much. I'm glad we can agree on something.
I live in the vain hope of someday seeing an article about northerners who give up heating their apartments and condos in winter because it's the noble thing to do. And the animals won't offer any good excuse in that case. (My Roma was perfectly content to walk around in 20 degree weather when we lived in Massachusetts. She hated our stuffy apartment, heated to a roiling 65 degrees unless one of the tenants opened the foyer door. Then the temp plummeted to the 50s.)
So the lesson is, of course, keep cool however you can—whether this means sitting by the A/C or giving up reading annoying articles in the Times or waiting until dark to walk the dogs. See you out at Park.