303 - Air Conditioned!

Nos Estados Unidos, entrar numa loja ou num restaurante no verão pode ser chocante: com o ar condicionado no máximo e temperaturas reduzidas em até 20 graus centígrados. Os americanos gostam assim, e não veem nenhum mal nisso. Mas as repercussões para a saúde e para o meio ambiente começam a ser percebidas. Um dos batalhadores por “temperaturas mais sustentáveis” é Stan Cox, que por sua militância já recebeu vários insultos e até ameaças de morte...
by Lorenza Cerbini

When the writer Henry Miller returned to his native United States during the Second World War, he was horrified by what he saw. He had spent 20 years enjoying life in Paris and he found American society plastic and artificial. He traveled all over the country and wrote a book about it: he called it The Air-Conditioned {yootooltip title=[Nightmare]} nightmare: pesadelo {/yootooltip}.
Since then America’s dependence on air conditoning has increased. According to Stan Cox, an agricultural scientist at the Land Institute in Kansas, this is disastrous both for the environment and health. In 2010 he published another book: Losing Our Cool – Uncomfortable Truths About Our Air-Conditioned World (and Finding New Ways to Get Through the Summer). He talked to Speak Up about America’s love affair with air conditioning:

Stan Cox
(Standard American/southern accent):

Well, yeah, this is (a) phenomenon that has been noticed: even The New York Times did a sort of an informal {yootooltip title=[survey]} survey: estudo, pesquisa {/yootooltip}, in which they went around to various {yootooltip title=[ clothing stores ]} clothing stores: lojas de roupas {/yootooltip} in Manhattan and some of the stores were very high-priced, {yootooltip title=[ upscale ]} upscale: classe alta {/yootooltip} stores, other ones were less expensive stores and they found that the more expensive or upscale the store, the colder they kept the temperature, so that the highest-priced stores had a temperature of {yootooltip title=[68 Fahrenheit]} 68 Fahrenheit: 20º Celsius {/yootooltip}, and then the cheapest stores were 12 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than that. And so {yootooltip title=[ there is an association with luxury ]} there is an association with luxury: a temperatura (baixa) vem associada ao luxo {/yootooltip} so that, even though, on a hot humid day outside, you don’t need to have it freezing cold, 20 degrees Fahrenheit colder in your flat, but that is the way a lot of Americans seem to like it.

The environmental cost of air conditioning is well known, but people know less about its effects on health:

Stan Cox
There is {yootooltip title=[ evidence ]} evidence: provas {/yootooltip} that use of air conditioning, although it saves life in {yootooltip title=[heat waves]} heat waves: ondas de calor {/yootooltip}, the more routine, {yootooltip title=[ lavish ]} lavish: exagerado {/yootooltip} use of air conditioning can actually {yootooltip title=[undermine our health]} undermine our health: sabotar nossa saúde {/yootooltip}, not only our tolerance of heat, but also things like obesity and sleep problems, {yootooltip title=[ hormone imbalance ]} hormone imbalance: desequilíbrio hormonal {/yootooltip} and so forth may be associated with spending an entire summer in what is, actually, a refrigerated environment. There are certain diseases associated with {yootooltip title=[ moulds ]} moulds: mofo {/yootooltip} and bacteria that there have cases in which they’ve been {yootooltip title=[ spread ]} spread: disseminados {/yootooltip} through air-conditioning systems, to infect a lot of people. We’ve had a very rapid {yootooltip title=[ rise ]} rise: aumento {/yootooltip} in the number of people, especially children, with allergies and asthma, and one theory that’s gained a lot of support is that part of the reason for that rise in asthma and allergy is that children are less exposed to friendly micro-organisms {yootooltip title=[in the soil and in the outdoors]} in the soil and in the outdoors: no solo e ao ar livre {/yootooltip} because they’re spending much more time in the summertime {yootooltip title=[indoors, with the windows sealed up]} indoors with the windows sealed up: em ambientes com as janelas fechadas {/yootooltip}, so they may be protected from allergies, but, on the other hand, this may be disrupting their immune systems, so they’re also more susceptible to allergies.

And Stan Cox believes there is also a social cost:

Stan Cox
Another thing that prompted me to write the book, actually, was going through a lot of {yootooltip title=[suburban neighbourhoods]} suburban neighbourhoods: bairros da periferia {/yootooltip}, both in Kansas in the Central U.S., where I live, and also in the South, where I grew up, going through neighbourhoods on a pleasant, warm summer evening and you see no humanity, the streets are empty, everyone is hiding inside in the air conditioning, and it has undermined our {yootooltip title=[social fabric]} social fabric: tecido social, relacionamentos {/yootooltip} in neighbourhoods, reduced the interaction between people in neighbourhoods. Of course, that’s not the only thing that has done that: we have electronic entertainment and so forth, but those different technologies work together, I think, to keep us indoors.

As anyone who has been to the United States knows, Americans LOVE air conditioning! The moment spring arrives and {yootooltip title=[radiators are switched off]} radiators are switched off: os aquecedores são desligados {/yootooltip}, air conditioning (AC) systems are switched on... {yootooltip title=[at full blast]} at full blast: no máximo {/yootooltip}!

For Brazilians and Europeans, who are used to leaving the window open on a hot day, a summer trip to the States can be particularly difficult: the temperature may be 40 degrees centigrade outside, but inside it seems to be zero!
Of course, not all Americans are in love with air conditioning. Stan Cox (see interview), for example, is an agricultural scientist at the Land Institute in Salina, Kansas. His previous books include Sick Planet: Corporate Food and Medicine (2008), an angry attack on the destruction of the {yootooltip title=[environment]} environment: meio ambiente {/yootooltip}. And he feels the same way about the USA’s excessive use of air conditioning. In 2010 he published (with The New Press) Losing Our Cool – Uncomfortable Truths About Our Air-Conditioned World (and Finding New Ways to Get Through the Summer).
The proposals Cox makes for “{yootooltip title=[getting through the summer]} getting through the summer: passar pelo verão {/yootooltip}” include using {yootooltip title=[fans]} fans: ventiladores {/yootooltip}, building houses with thermals {yootooltip title=[ roofs ]} roofs: telhados, coberturas {/yootooltip} and insulated windows, using cold water, both for drinking and bathing your body. He also thinks that we should use more plants, both indoors and outdoors. Other tips include turning off lights on hot days and wearing clothes made of natural fibres and not polyester. Cox thinks that, like {yootooltip title=[cows]} cows: vacas {/yootooltip}, we should relax by moving about as little as possible in the {yootooltip title=[heat]} heat: calor {/yootooltip}. He believes in “constructive inertia.”

While researching the book Cox traveled {yootooltip title=[widely]} widely: amplamente, por toda parte {/yootooltip}, not only in the USA, but also in India, a country where people have learnt to survive the heat without AC. In terms of the environment, Cox argues that AC is part of a vicious circle: it increases the use of {yootooltip title=[oil and coal]} oil and coal: petróleo e carvão {/yootooltip}. This increases the production of {yootooltip title=[greenhouse gases]} greenhouse gases: gases do efeito estufa {/yootooltip}: these {yootooltip title=[ in turn ]} in turn: por sua vez {/yootooltip} increase the temperature of our planet, and so we use even more air conditioning! And, says Cox, AC is also bad for our health (see interview).
Not surprisingly, Cox’s criticism of AC is considered “UnAmerican.” If you “google” Stan Cox, you will find blogs where he is denounced as an “ignorant {yootooltip title=[moron]} moron: retardado {/yootooltip}.” Other comments include, “What a ridiculous {yootooltip title=[waste of time]} waste of time: perda de tempo {/yootooltip}! Idiot!” and “Stan, an agricultural scientist. In other words {yootooltip title=[he grows and smokes pot]} he grows and smokes pot: ele cultiva e fuma maconha {/yootooltip} . Ban air conditioners? I say ban liberals.” For others, he is even “a socialist.” Yes, the Americans love their air conditioning!

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