photo: Sean McGrath via flickr


Mother Nature Network's Shea Gunther made a serious point, perhaps inadvertently, in the middle of yesterday's record high temperatures when he tweeted,

I wish bloggers without AC could call in a Heat Day. I should be lounging by a river today, it's too hot in my apartment to think straight.

I was thinking pretty straight yesterday despite the heat, but Gunther is right. We ought to be calling Heat Days when the temperatures get this high. It's a far more sensible thing to do than just turning up the air conditioning and power on like its pleasantly 30 degrees cooler and not humid, not adjusting our work and personal schedules to the weather.

Planet Green and TreeHugger have covered myriad ways to live without air conditioning before, so I won't rehash them. But the bigger point is this:

People have lived without air conditioning in hot places for thousands of years by adapting themselves to the heat—remember that the widespread air conditioning use has only become the norm in the past 15 years or so, as Stan Cox rightly points out. This was (and is, in many places in the developing world) done by adjusting the time of day when work is done, avoiding the middle of the day, and by creating buildings that stay cooler without using external energy inputs.

Take a siesta in the hottest part of the day. If you've got a body of water nearby, take a dip. Avoid strenuous activity and stay hydrated. When it's this hot sweating is perfectly natural and not dangerous—you should probably be more concerned if you aren't sweating a bit when it's 100° +.

This isn't meant to be a blanket condemnation of air conditioning. There are plenty of good and appropriate places and times for its use. Just that air conditioning being the default solution to hot weather is frankly delusional.

I realize that this isn't an overnight change, and that for many people they don't have the luxury of dictating their schedule. But as heat waves like this only become more stickily normal thanks to climate change—in part directly fueled by air conditioning itself, being about 20% of electricity use these days—the need to adjust ourselves to the heat though building and scheduling is something that needs to be taken seriously.

At worst, when heat waves continue for multiple days, perhaps going so far as declaring heat days and just halting work until things cool down.

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