Air Conditioning: A Brief History
No doubt A/C units do bring some benefits. In the first place, it has become easier to live in hotter climates. Second, it has reduced deaths due to periodic heat waves. However, in spite of that benefit, when it was first introduced to the public, most people were skeptical of it. It took a lot of marketing for people to start to accept A/C units. Even then it was just something tolerated in public buildings. It was not something that the public bought into as an “essential” for their homes. Prior to World War II, practically no one had A/C at home. But things changed quickly and by the 1960s it was pretty broadly accepted and then transformed from a luxury to a necessity.
Many of us today cannot fathom living without A/C. To some extent that need for A/C has become like a self-fulfilling prophesy. Homes are no longer built to take advantage of natural air flow. Such airflow is also no longer needed since we now have A/C units. Moreover, much of the natural shade around our homes have been bulldozed away. Even if you wanted to live without air conditioning it is more difficult than it used to be. In fact, it is much more so due to climate change and warming temperatures.
Air Conditioning: 4 Ways it Makes You Sick
There are a few other unforeseen consequences due to the prevalence of A/C.
1. First and foremost, since the advent of A/C, we have as a society become more pampered. In contrast to our hardy ancestors, today rarely do kids go outside and much less adults unless the outdoor temperatures are near perfect. We’ve become accustomed to a very narrow temperature range. Although in the state of nature, we would easily acclimate to a range of outdoor temperatures, each time we go from indoors to outdoors its a little like jumping into cool water. Its a bit of a shock to the system. That makes it less desirable to leave the house in the first place.
2. Second, have we also sealed ourselves away in isolation to some extent. Whereas in places that have no air conditioning, homes are built with a more open design that invites social interaction, we have homes that are closed off. Instead of open ventilated air flow we need windows, doors, and walls to keep the air conditioned.
Heat Waves vs. Preventable Chronic Diseases
True we have prevented some deaths from heat waves but we’ve instead brought upon ourselves many chronic diseases which are also responsible for some number of preventable deaths. Don’t misunderstand, I’m not blaming it all on A/C. No, my regular readers know I’m blaming it on mindless consumerism. Air conditioning is only one such example of consumerism gone wrong.
We’re not looking to go back to the Stone Age. We just want to take the good of modernity without taking the bad. Air conditioning has a place. Probably it is best suited to those who are most vulnerable. They are the most likely to be benefit in the event of a heat wave. Along with shading and water and perhaps public buildings that offer A/C, we could save lives while not becoming so frail.
BOTTOM LINE: THERE IS A BETTER WAY!
- As John Maynard Keynes said a century ago, people of our time ought to be largely independent of our employers for our income – unfortunately, due to “mindless consumerism”, we are not.
- Mindless consumerism is the underlying reason leading to the rise of chronic disease for several reasons:
- A. It ties us to dependence on our employers. Unfortunately, modern day employment is a health hazard for most (in part due to the sedentary nature of most jobs).
- B. Overconsumption has lead us to engineer out the need for meaningful use of our legs for ambulation.
- C. It has led to environmental changes toxic to our wellbeing. We evolved in and are best suited to natural environments and instead we live in increasingly artificial environments.
- D. Finally, it transforms works to work with blinders on – instead of working for the product or service and receiving money as a side effect, workers focus on making money and the product or service is instead the side effect. The results (with respect to health) is that “food” is no longer food but changed to maximize pleasure and extract profit in spite of the toxicity to health.
- Based on the science of wellbeing one can derive the philosophy that once basic needs are met, “The best things in life are free” therefore —>
- Most people can live far below their means without sacrificing happiness AND by investing the rest, they can become financially independent of their employers enabling them to be —>
- Happier. Healthier. Wealthier. More engaged. Simply better.