Chill Out | Air [Con]


Mje20Px 1 Ls B The stats are simply astounding.

The US has approximately 5% of the world’s population. And uses 25% of the world’s electricity. And fully one third of that goes on air conditioning.

That’s 8% of the world’s electricity on keeping you guys cool.

7 billion gallons of petrol a year are used in US car air-con systems – equivalent to the total oil consumption of Indonesia, population 240 million.

What’s more, the Chinese haven’t even got started. Every ten days another coal-fired power plant opens somewhere in China big enough to serve all the households in Dallas. The Chinese already use more coal than the US, the EU and Japan combined. And they are getting the air-con bug: the market has grown by 70% each year.

The cultural effects have already taken their toll. Air con has made the Central/Southern American siesta redundant. The rise of the internet means warehouses of servers that need to be kept at low ambient temperatures – this alone was cited as a major reason for the rolling blackouts in California this summer. And the major problem is that air con is a con: it creates a positive feedback loop whereby the heat ejected raises the temperature for everyone else, and so more and more people end up getting them, which raises the temperature even more.

So what do we do? Turn it down. Chill out. Slow down. Take a bath. Have a siesta. Before we all fry.

//Check out the full article in Prospect [here]//

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17 responses to “Chill Out | Air [Con]”

  1. scary shit eh? new stats dont seem to ever get any better either…

  2. Yeah, it is pretty scary. I can understand the impulse, as I have a hard time functioning well in hot weather. But it is startling. To that end, when we use an air conditioner, we try to reduce energy use in other areas.
    I will say that I feel for those people who live in very hot climates. Even here in Winnipeg, there are interesting bio-chemical challenges at stake. Our winter lows can drop below -50C (lower with wind chill) and our summers can reach up to 40C (higher with humidex). As a result of our longer winter, our blood chemistry adjusts to cool weather, making the summers that much more unbearable.
    Of course, these are not excuses, but challenges to the eco-enterpeneur to create better forms of cooling. If we had the money we would use geo-thermic heating/cooling. Perhaps someday.

  3. Good thoughts / links.
    People have asked what this has to do with faith. And, beyond the standard environment answers, it seems to have everything to do with it.
    The trouble with air-con is that partially plays in a locally ‘sealed’ thermodynamic economy. The only way you can get cooler is to push your heat on to your neighbour. Who, if they have a/c too, pushes it on, and on and on… until it arrives at the poor who don’t.
    So it impinges on ideas of ‘the other’ and who our neighbour is, even before we’ve started thinking about the global heat economy, and the inflation that’s suffering.

  4. It’s 103 out but I just turned the a/c off.
    This reminds me that to everything there is a season, but here in SoCal we defy the seasons with our affluence. I can choose not to be greedy with my productivity. Competition will kill us if we cannot choose to stand with the least of these.
    It’s hot! D…! even so let’s give cup of cold water by fasting

  5. Suzanna, you’re a saint! God bless you with some huge icy drink!
    The seasons thing is important too. We lose something when we condition the air to some comfortable standard, and forget about cold and warm and wet and dry… which somehow connect us with the ground and the air. And for thousands of years these things have moderated our work and rest… To cut them out somehow makes us less human, and more robot.

  6. Dana Ames

    …and for thousands of years people have died due to heat exhaustion. I have never been able tolerate being out of doors for very long if the temp is much more than 90º, and there are lots of elderly folks who are worse off than I am.
    We don’t have to turn the air con controls to icebox temperatures. Yes we can learn to tolerate a bit more heat and cold during the summer and winter. We can use evaporative coolers which work very well in places with lower humidity (we have one in our house); they use much less energy and run on motors that don’t produce a lot of heat. We can do what we are able in every area possible to be wiser about our energy use.
    I understand your points, Kester, and I think there’s a more “middle way” available now, and more efficient technologies to be developed in the future. Simply to make use of technology does not render one “robotic”.

  7. Totally agree, Dana – I was just prodding 😉
    Boy is it hard though… Back at school today a Christian colleague came in to our staff work room and complained at how stuffy and hot it was. It was warm, sure, but it’s September, and it was no WAY hot. So she cranks on the a/c, down to like 19 degrees. We have a good relationship, so I told her about what I’d written, and some of the stats. And she laughed. I turned it off, and we went to find the key to the door so we could get some air through. The key was remove by management for ‘security reasons.’ She turned it back on, and basically laughed off my attempts to connect spirituality and ecology.
    What I think we desperately need is people to really consider what they are doing, rather than read ‘Comfort, comforts for my people, says the Lord.’ A lot more people are going to die if we don’t.

  8. Dana Ames

    I hear you.

  9. I understand your point and that it is just one part of a larger affluenza that affects both North Americans and Europeans. But I wonder if some of your aghastness has to do with growing up on a cold and damp North Atlantic Island? Perhaps if you had to spend your summers in my home town of Granite City, Illinois you’re sharpness would be tempered? Located almost in the center of the country 2000 miles away on all sides from any oceans, from mid-April through September the mean temperature is 29.4 C with highs that reach 37.8C and stay there for weeks at a time. But the real problem is the 70-85% humidity. During the peak times of june & july, when you step outside, the air is so hot and thick that it suffocates you.
    But obviously not everyone in the good ole US of A has weather like this. Shamefully, you are right. We are so simply spoiled. We have never had to reckon with the implications of our useage. I’ll admit, only until the last 4 years have I really began to examine the impact that my own consumerism has on the environment.
    So while I agree with you, just take it easy on us Yanks until you’ve walked a mile in our sweaty, humid name brand 3rd world produced non recyclable designer shoes.

  10. Great comments John! Funnily enough, when I was over in CA in August I got chatting to some guys from Phoenix who explained what it was like living there in the summer. Sounded horrendous. The question we then came to was: why the hell did the place get settled? Did the settlers arrive in winter and not realise what summer would be like? There are some parts of our planet (see previous post on Planet Playpen) that are just inhospitable for us. And perhaps we shouldn’t have settled there… Which doesn’t help much now I know!

  11. Dana Ames

    My mother lived near Phoenix the last ten years of her life, so I got to know that area a little bit. Arizona was settled (in the 20th century) largely because it was a place where, before the rush of people in the last 20 years, severe allergy sufferers could find relief. Also, ranching was a factor, and there were some few people who liked living in the desert. The indiginous peoples were able to survive quite well on the plateaus growing maize and raising sheep. Lately people have moved there for jobs, and many active retirees like the warmer weather. A lot of them have a winter home there and a summer home somewhere else- those folks are called “snowbirds”. Arizona also had a huge aquifer under the desert floor; unfortunately, the water is being pumped out faster than it is being replaced, in order to water grass lawns, which were never meant to grow there, and many golf courses.
    The dry heat of the Arizona desert is much more tolerable than what John describes. That kind of humidity is characteristic of much of the US east of the Mississippi river basin. Where I live, in a valley in the Coastal Range only 25 miles or so east of the Pacific, the humidity doesn’t get much higher than 50% during the summer. Some mornings I can smell the ocean, and the proximity to it cools our summer nights quite nicely after 90-100 degree days, but the western US that isn’t the Pacific coastline is generally dry.
    I’ve always liked geography…

  12. Is this the same Kester who was driving that big fuck-off SUV. Surely this must be ‘Green-Kester’ speaking today?

  13. Yeah, but we had the air-con off 😉

  14. Thou shalt not get away with this

  15. Is that you modelling the air-con?

  16. One more thing that can be done to fight the internet server problem, (for those of you who live in the UK), is to use wind power to power your websites.