It’s Not Just the Weather, it’s Also the People

I think some people are taking the wrong message here. I grew up on the Gulf Coast of Florida (spent a lot of time in the middle of the state, including on a cattle ranch) and here’s a fun fact – I almost never felt hot and I have no memory of people complaining about the heat. I have more memories of being cold than of being hot. Of course, in that environment anything under 60 degrees Fahrenheit felt very cold and under 50 felt like end- of -the-world, bitter, bone piercing cold. Maybe because those kinds of temperatures weren’t the norm that I remember them. But the only time I felt hot was when I spent a lot of time in the direct sun doing work type things…. which wasn’t that common. And none of the houses I spent the most time in had air conditioning and neither did the schools I went to. At most we might also have an electric fan or two at home.

The crucial difference between then and now was, I think, fear of crime. We never locked the door and we left windows open all the time,. Close to the Gulf there was almost always some kind of breeze and that was enough, along with the long term acclimation and a fan or two, to keep things very livable, even in the summer. Even further inland natural breezes and a fan or two were enough to keep things okay.

When I went to university, in Gainesville, things were different. I left the window open once when I went to the movies and when I got back home I found out why nobody else on the street was not doing that. I was living in an old wooden house (divided down the middle into two shotgun apartments) and it would have been very livable if I could just leave the window open but that wasn’t feasible and so it became a hellish sweatbox until I bought an air conditioner (which I usually only used a few hours in the early evening).

Back around 12 or 13 years ago there was a major heatwave in France and thousands of older people died and it turned out this was partly because they were afraid to leave their windows open at night (and I remember similar occurences in the US). Another problem (and change from when I was a child) is that modern buildings in Florida are built around an air conditioning system and quickly become unbearable without it (the same way that cities built around cars are unlivable for people without cars. And maybe retiring to a place where air conditioning is a necessity to feel good is maybe not the wisest idea.

I like air conditioning just fine, especially when I travel to hotter places since I’ve lost a lot of my former heat resistance (Poland will do that to you) but I think it’s often more a human created necessity rather than a basic necessity.

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