Tuesday, July 6, 2010

How do you stay cool?

High temperatures are predicted for much of the U.S. today--even Madison is expecting heat and humidity--and everyone is looking to stay cool.

As I reflected on ways to beat the heat, I realized that managing hot weather has always been a challenge, particularly in the days before our modern conveniences. This led me to Wikipedia where there is a fascinating history of air conditioning going back to early Chinese dynasties and ancient Rome. Modern methods for air cooling using CFCs were developed in the early 20th century which are now giving way to non-ozone depleting refrigerants.

Today, while air conditioning equipment is widespread and has improved the quality of life in hot climates in the south and western United States, it is not ubiquitous. Over the holiday weekend, I spent some time in Duluth, Minnesota where I grew up, at my parents' house which does not have air conditioning. And for Duluth's usually mild summer temperatures (and famously cold winter temps!), it's not really justified. However on this hot and sticky weekend, it left us trying to stay cool some old fashioned ways like seeking shade, drinking something cool and heading to the lakeshore for a dip in Lake Superior's chilly 60-some degree water.

I'd love to hear about your experiences with air conditioning--did you have it growing up? Do you have it now? Where are you in the country (or world)? Please share with us in the comments below.

And while you're thinking these thoughts about cooling, think about your friends and neighbors too who may need some help staying cool today.

Photo by Steve Moses via Flickr


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