Summertime, and the living is easy…because anything requiring effort might just make our heads explode. July is a time when those of us who try to hold off on air conditioning might crumble in our resolve. When days are hot as blazes and nights don’t bring significant relief, air conditioning is truly a magical thing.
Yet holding out for as long as possible is a noble goal. Cranking up the A/C in the car, at home, and at work creates islands of cool that, while refreshing, may tax your body to the point of illness.
There is some evidence to suggest that A/C increases the incidence of “mucous membrane irritation, breathing difficulties, irritated skin, and constitutional/neurological symptoms such as headache and fatigue.” The “thermal shock” (sudden temperature change of >10* Fahrenheit) is one possible reason; the drying effect of A/C may play a role; and A/C filters may have mold or other microbiological contaminants that affect respiration can also be the culprit.
Comments from a New York Times article on the topic include readers who cite the extreme temperature variation as a factor in their discomfort and illness.
“It's one thing to step in from the heat and be pleasantly cooled, and it's another thing entirely to get chilled to the bones by a 30-degree difference. I feel like nowadays commercial indoor spaces, as well as buses and trains are chilled brutally, way more than needed. That's what gives me a runny nose and makes me sneeze - the excessive cold, not the A/C per se.”
So if you use A/C, remember that “Enough is as good as a feast.”
A brief note in favor of A/C: it is definitely recommended for people with asthma and other respiratory challenges when fires are prevalent and the air quality is bad, as in the fires of 2008. Small window units set up in whatever room is most frequently occupied are helpful in keeping breathing problems due to smoke and particulates in check.
As well as the glory or challenge of prolific heat, July brings the Fourth of July celebration we know as “Independence Day.” America’s emancipation from its status as a colony of Britain is celebrated enthusiastically by many citizens, and is an important historical event. We can hold in our understanding the pride and accomplishment of that liberation, and also recognize that it came with a heavy price for America’s First People, the indigenous communities that suffered under our colonization, even as we vehemently fought for our own freedom. In the spirit of recognizing that “independence” as a policy or value can create harmful divisions, let us perhaps consider an “Interdependence Day.”
We are not independent from the natural world we live in, and pretending that we are by (for example) attempting to negate our environment’s climate by controlling our own can cause problems, both on a personal and on a larger scale. We are interdependent with other people—we are connected by the fact that we all rely on the same things to sustain life, and we all share the land, air, and water that our lives are literally built from. We are interdependent as our families link and conjoin and grow. We are interdependent in our quest to live with meaning and purpose. And as a cooperative, we recognize and celebrate this interdependence; it is delineated in our most fundamental policies, it is encoded in our operations and aspirations.
So while we celebrate the value of Independence and the historical significance of the holiday, let us also give honor to Interdependence: the spirit of Co-operation and mutual aid.