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Is Air Conditioning Evil?

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A new piece recently published in Salon, which amounts to a searing indictment of the invention of air conditioning, does a good job of explaining how AC has been destroying the fabric of American communities since the early 20th century, but it’s a really one-sided affair that could use a little balance.

Side 1: Air Conditioning Ruins America

What could possibly be so bad about AC? According to the article, it was an invention that bankrupted boardwalks, emptied amusement parks and severed the communal spirit of summer by allowing people to abandon nature and closet themselves away in their homes.

All of this is … entirely true, actually. Air conditioning was basically the smartphone of the 20th century – a device that encouraged isolationism by giving us a comfortable excuse to stop interacting with one another.

Also like the smartphone, AC obliquely encouraged consumerism. Movie theaters of the time advertised “ice-cold air” on sweltering summer days and shopping centers did the same. It was one more way technology acted to sever the organ of communication from the body politic and shift the emphasis of our social lives outside the home toward shopping.

But …

Side 2: Air Conditioning Is AWESOME

Okay, so it’s really easy to see how AC has the power to divide us as a community, but let’s look at some of the upsides:

1. It allows us to be more productive: And, Salon covers this aspect, but it doesn’t give it much credence or consideration. More productivity means more prosperity, and more prosperity often leads to more security and a higher quality of life. And, that’s a big deal.

2. It probably makes us nicer: Excessive heat is thought to be a contributor to increased occurrences in aggressive behavior. But, even if it wasn’t most of us would agree it’s no fun being hot and miserable, hence the expression “hot and miserable.”

3. It definitely makes us more comfortable: No explanation needed here. Just imagine what it would be like to try and fall asleep during summer in that 15th-floor apartment, or finish that steamy bowl of soup in an even steamier restaurant.

4. Social activities also benefit from air conditioning: AC might push us away from one another in some ways, but it also brings us together in environments and situations we may not otherwise consider. After all, who wants to attend an event on a super-scorching day, be it a birthday party or a bar outing, when the AC's busted?

5. It can be a lifesaver: This is a literal fact, and one the article does address, although it doesn’t seem to give the idea much weight. The truth is that AC keeps a lot of people alive all over the world, especially during these record-setting summers.

Now, is all this awesomeness worth the sacrifice? That’s always going to be the question when it comes to the comforts technology provides. Convenience always comes with a cost and trick is finding the best way to balance it.

What’s your take on AC?

 

This 12,000 BTU portable air conditioner by LG cools rooms up to 450 sq. ft. and features an auto-evaporation system, eco-friendly refrigerant and remote control.

For those who think AC is the enemy, this 3-speed portable fan from Sunpentown features a built-in ionizer and an ultra-quiet motor. 

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