Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Air Conditioning and Climate Change

Did I mention that they had no air conditioning in Prague? Well, at least not in any of the places that I spent time: my dorm room, Charles University, the Ypsilon Theater, pubs, restaurants, stores, and tour busses (although the bus drivers and tour guides assured us that it was on as we sat red-faced, fanning ourselves). Apparently, last summer it was cool and rainy, so maybe they are simply unaccustomed to the 90 degree weather that they had the entire month of July.

Regardless of what type of weather they've come to expect in July, the Czechs handled this heat wave with grace. People stripped down to essential clothing--tank tops, skirts on women, short shorts. After a while, I did get used to being hot and sweaty. It just meant changing my clothes more often and maybe adding a second shower to my daily routine. I only really missed the air conditioning at night, when despite having a fan in my room, I would wake up sometimes with my face against a sweaty pillowcase. I know, it's disgusting.

Today, to help prevent a city-wide blackout, Mayor Bloomberg required all New York City-owned buildings to raise the temperature of their air conditioning units to 78 degrees. You know, that's a lovely temperature, not a sacrifice really. I mean who wants to carry a sweater around with them in the summer time anyway?

Last year the New York Times, in its Style section, carried an article on the relationship between the chicness of a store and its degree of chilliness. As you might expect, the more chichi a store, the lower its temperature was kept.

What's up with this? Can we get real already and stop this ridiculous charade? It's summer and it's hot. Consider turning your own air conditioning up to 78. Trust me it's better than nothing. Ask the restaurants, theaters, and stores that you visit to do the same. Tell them that they'll be doing their part for the planet and keeping you more comfortable at the same time.

1 comment:

Jessica said...

Hi Kim,

You can not believe how much I agree with you!

Point A: Yesterday I spent svereal hours at IKEA in CT and even though I came prepared wearing a cardigan (at 108F heat index outside), I was shivering. It was so cold that as we entered, we overheard several people turn around, because it was too cold and they didn't bring sweaters...!

Point B: I spoke on the phone with my friend Krsitina, who is currently travelling by car through the South with her son. She mentioned to me that she had never been so cold in July in her life. (She lives on Cape Cod, MA) Apparently all establishments in Mississipi, Georgia, Lousiana, Kentucky, etc. make it a point to keep the A/C on at full blast and freezing. Kristina told me that she had to go to a mall and buy several shawls, cardigans and sweat-shirts for her son, so that they wouldn't get sick from freezing indoors after coming in sweaty from outside.

Point C: Growing up in Europe and spending over 10 years in Australia (Melbourne regularly reaches temperatures of over 105 F), I rarely if ever encountered A/C. Maybe some movie theatres had it on (low) and some restaurants, but not on freezing cold, if at all. The major difference is that the buildings in Melbourne, Paris, South of France, Prague, etc. are build of thick stone, which insulates so much better. And the windows have shutters (now there's a novel concept: shutters that actually shut instead of just being there for decorative purposes) In France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Greece, they have the very decent idea to close all businesses from 12 noon until 4-5PM, during the worst heat and then re-opening in the evenings until late.

Oh, well! We can only try and spread the word and
I 'll keep my A/C on 78F or more.