September 11, 2004

Air Conditioning and Culture

After living the US, Belgium, Mexico, Turkey, and now Spain, I have observed how AC helps a culture not only not die from the heat but also create a higher productivity level.

I truly believe that there is a correlation between the places that are naturally hot and do not have AC in their lives with apathy and general low productivity levels as seen in their culture. Then in the places with AC or that don't need AC because it is not hot, have an increased drive to be more productive.

It almost reminds me of the invention of electricity and its affect on mass productivity. Before we had electricity and light beyond the time when the sun shared its rays with us, we could only work and produce during sunlight. Now with electricity and the light bulb, we can work 24/7 if we wanted to. It dramatically changed the way the world worked and in a way exponentially increased productivity. We were no longer dependent on the sun's time frame.

I parallel this with AC and the temperature of our homes. If we could function with a stable, comfortable environment that is not too hot keeping us from being tired and lazy, then we could be functioning at a peak level all the time and we wouldn't have to take an afternoon nap just because the sun's heat is at its highest.

I was asked Friday in my language class, how do we survive in Texas with the heat. I told them that everyone has AC (for the most part this is very true) and that I was sort of shocked that they didn't have it in houses in Spain. My Spanish teacher then added that many elderly people die of the heat especially in the South of Spain. This is why I am shocked. AC exists so why not evolve and put it in the home? He said it was a matter of money. It is a tough issue I guess.

In a way, a Texan could not fathom living without AC but yet it is the default not to have it in the home in many places in the world. It could be an issue of money, an issue of culture, and/or an issue of infrastructure.

It appears to me that the culture is extremely affected by the heat and its effect on the body in places that are hot and do not have AC in the homes. This might seem simple or it might seem dumb for me to bring up but I am quite curious as to whether there is a study on how heat affects the culture.

On the flip side, productivity is not everything. Everytime you mention heat in terms of Europe, people talk about how the culture of southern Europe is so much more friendly and jovial probably because of the good weather or sun exposure they get. While in northern Europe where the sun doesn't shine as often and it can be rainy, foggy, and depressing, they are usually a bit more cold and there are a lot of suicides. Of course this is a generalization and how do you really measure this, but it is interesting to think about.

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