AC as necessity, not amenity – a future of life-support

Imagine Prometheus bringing ice rather than fire, to a new age.

The age of air conditioning. A complicated history. Conspiracy theories. Fading stoicism. Where would we be without AC? Something we take for granted. Yet, increasingly a Catch-22.

When I taught public school in the 90’s, there were times when I brought in my own fans for the classroom. Multiple fans. Is learning possible in sweltering school buildings not designed even for cross ventilation? No AC. Distant water fountains.

When will air conditioning be standard in cars and trucks – no longer optional?

Heat zones, longer summers, wildfire smoke, grid instability, … climate migration …

This article has historical photos and useful visuals, including a timeline chart “How air conditioning arrived in U.S. households” from 1915 to 2020.

• Washington Post > “Addicted to cool” by Philip Kennicott (Sept 21, 2023) – How the dream of air conditioning turned into the dark future of climate change

Less tangible are the poetic details of life before AC that are embedded in art and literature. Staying cool in hot weather was often a social experience, a collective lethargy that brought one closer to family and community.

Without marketing, advertising, subsidies and alliances among major industries, air conditioning might never have become the essential, invisible, gently grinding backdrop to almost every indoor space in America today.

So we dream of a new Promethean benefaction, to rescue us from the unintended side effects of his last gift. Perhaps solar power or renewable energy will offset the environmental costs of running a globe full of air conditioning. Perhaps air conditioning can be made more efficient … Maybe … engineering human-made weather on a planetary scale.