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Jewish World Review
July 26, 2006
/ 1 Menachem-Av, 5766
Crank up the AC & I get cranky
So now we know how it feels to be a Hershey bar in a pizza oven. What a relief to get home, crank up the AC and damn the world to ever steamier summers.
That's right, I'm giving you a hard time for blasting your air conditioner, and not just because I'm the one who's always wearing a sweater and complaining about how cold it is in the office.
I realize that life can be pretty miserable without air conditioning. And the subway? Commuter fondue. For the sick and the elderly, AC may even be a lifesaver. But one-sixth of the electricity we use in America more than all the electricity used in India - goes to air conditioning. Generating that power adds to global warming, which means that summers are going to keep getting hotter until the polar ice caps melt, New York is underwater and we're all nice and cool (and wrinkly).
Until then, shouldn't you throw out your window unit provided no one is standing directly underneath?
You bet your sweaty buns. But if you're like most people, you won't ... unless you start thinking about all the ways air conditioning has made us a lonelier, chubbier, less-fulfilled country.
The loneliness factor is obvious - just look at how we spend our season (not) in the sun. Before the advent of air conditioning, summer was one big block party, with neighbors gossiping, hydrants spewing and lots of shrieking the good kind. Now those same revelers stay inside Googling "fun" and wondering why they never have any.
Then they snack.
Which is better for everyone involved: dipping a chip into guac or a toe into ice cold hydrant water? And which one is going to give you a bigger gut? Maybe one reason we're all blimping up (besides the Colonel's Extra Crispy) is that the AC keeps us in the living room instead of heading out to toss a Frisbee.
We used to spend summers outside. Now that seems too hot compared to the climate-controlled stores beckoning us in. So instead of playing, we end up paying. We'd have been better off just hanging out on the porch.
Except the porch is gone! Another victim of AC! Shade, who needs it anymore? Once builders started to depend on AC, they stopped designing homes that cooled off naturally and cheaply. Commercial developers stopped, too. Out went the blueprints for buildings shaped to promote cross-ventilation. Stark towers sprang up, their windows sealed shut. These behemoths trap so much heat that parts of the Sears Tower have to be air-conditioned even when outside it is zero degrees.
Now, weeks like this one, AC sounds pretty good, even in zero degrees. But there are ways you can feel cool without wasting as much energy or money. Don't leave the AC on when you're not at home. Use fans when you can stand it a little warmer. And then: Get out there! To the park or pool or that sizzling stretch of sand called Coney. This is July, not January. You're supposed to be hot.
You're just not supposed to fry the planet.
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JWR contributor Lenore Skenazy is a columnist for The New York Daily News. Comment by clicking here.
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