I’m not a person who does well in the heat, but running the AC uses so much energy. Energy that not only costs a fortune, but comes from power plants burning coal. That coal burning is putting loads of shit into our air that not only contributes to global warming, but contaminates our air, food, and water with dangerous toxins like mercury, that are very likely major contributors to a variety of serious health conditions like asthma, ADHD, ASD, and cancer.
This stuff hurts everyone. The pollutants have circulated so thoroughly through our water, air, and soil, that there is not a person on earth who isn’t exposed. Even fetuses are exposed, yes, even if it’s mother doesn’t eat fish (but while we’re on the subject, where do you think the mercury in fish comes from? Coal fired power plants). But even though we’re all being slowly poisoned by it, there’s no hiding who are most impacted; the poor.
Have you ever noticed how they don’t tend to build McMansions in the shadow of power plants? Power plants tend not to do much to boost property values. I guess rich people don’t like the views, or the smells, or the sounds, or the health risks of living near a power plant, and since they can afford to pay extra to not be exposed to that (directly), they do. It’s impoverished people (most of whom are women and children), for the most part, who live with the harshest impacts of pollution, both in the US and the world at large. And the poorer you are, the worse the impact is.
The same goes for climate change. A recent report from the International Panel on Climate Change found that poor people will be the ones most impacted by climate change. Which double sucks for them, because they’re also the ones who have contributed the least to it. Climate change is expected to cause wide spread famine, drought, plagues, floods, heat waves, etc. And the poor are the least sheltered from the impact of all of that.
Keeping my AC off in the summer may seem like a drop in the bucket for preventing all that, but it’s one drop I can give, so I’m going to give it. Also, it’s saving us about $60 a month.
I don’t think we’ve ever done an AC free summer in this house. It’s not ideal for it. We have a large swath of our house open to blistering southern exposure, and that’s also where all but one of our windows are. But Jeremy and I are determined. We are using our ceiling fans, keeping windows open, and wearing minimal clothes (hell, most days the kids are naked). We minimize cooking, and do our most strenuous chores early in the day, before it gets too hot. We keep lights off, blinds closed, and avoid running electronics. If it gets really bad, we might take a cool bath or run out to the library where the AC is running.
Surprisingly, it hasn’t been that bad. When we started this mission, it wasn’t intentional. Every year we always go as long as we can without AC, but this year we noticed we’d made it all the way into June, and we started asking “How much further do you think we can go?” Which eventually morphed into “let’s shoot for all summer!” The fact that we could do this so easily with such a terrible house for temperature regulation makes me think it’s probably realistic that we could all pitch a drop into that same bucket.
I get that AC is very nice, I like it myself, but doesn’t it seem kind of frivolous? Honestly, we spend a ton of money and destroy a lot of resources just to obliterate any hint that seasons might be taking place inside our homes and businesses. I know houses can be built to really maximize cooling in the summer and warming in the winter, with very little, if any, energy input. I know this, because my mother’s home is just such a house. And there are things she could do, such as have a white roof or installing a whole house fan, that would increase the effect even more. Why would we not just design all of our buildings that way in the first place? I’m not saying that no one should be allowed AC, but if we designed our homes better, we’d probably need a lot less of it, if any.
Never experiencing temperature fluctuations and the air of the seasons just isn’t natural, and keeping yourself cooped up in a climate controlled box isn’t healthy either (in fact, you are more likely to get sick locked up in a home full of recycled air that everyone else is breathing their germs into, whether that air is chilled or heated). AC, like TV, coaxes us to stay locked away indoors, away from community and nature. It encourages us to sit in front of screens and stay still all day, isolated from our neighbors and the world. I think there is a good case to be made that AC, though pleasant, is mostly bad for us, like narcotics, or soda.
I think there’s something to expecting people to be able to tolerate temperature fluctuations. Summer is hot. Deal with it. Have we become so entitled and soft as a culture that we honestly can’t tolerate a warm day? Seriously? I feel like I’ve toughened up about heat a lot this summer, but it shouldn’t take a total badass to be able to handle a little heat. Most of us could do without air conditioning, and might be better off for it.
Of course, we still have to make it through the rest of July and August. And we haven’t gotten over 100 yet this year, so my tune may change. But I’m going to try really hard to power through. My drop in the bucket may be a little one, but it sends ripples through the whole bucket.