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Losing Our Cool: Uncomfortable Truths about Our Air-Conditioned World (and Finding New Ways to Get through the Summer)by Stan Cox
Synopses & Reviews
In Losing Our Cool, scientist and environmental journalist Stan Cox shows that indoor climate control is colliding with an out-of-control outdoor climate. In America, energy consumed by home air-conditioning and the resulting greenhouse emissions have doubled in just over a decade; energy used to cool retail stores has risen by two thirds. And six out of every seven gallons of diesel fuel U.S. forces haul into Iraq and Afghanistan are used to run air-conditioning.
Reporting from some of the world’s hot zones — from Arizona and Florida to India — Cox documents the surprising ways in which air-conditioning changes human experience: giving a boost to the global warming that it is designed to help us endure, providing a potent commercial stimulant, making possible an impossible commuter economy, and altering migration patterns. Though it saves lives in heat waves, it may also be altering our bodies’ sensitivity to heat; our rates of infection, allergy, asthma, and obesity; and even our sex drive.
Air-conditioning has helped change the political hue of the United States. It has even served as an instrument of torture. Cox argues that by reintroducing traditional cooling methods as well as putting newer technologies into practice — and by moving past industrial definitions of comfort — we can make ourselves comfortable and keep the planet comfortable, too.
"Cox (Sick Planet) provides the first-ever book-length look at the consequences on our environment and on our health of air-conditioning in this enlightening study. He documents how greenhouse emissions increased and ozone depletion skyrocketed once air conditioners became prevalent, and presents staggering statistics: the amount of electricity Americans use for powering their air conditioners alone equals the same amount the 930 million residents of Africa use for all their electricity needs. Cox reveals some surprising information as he explores air conditioning as a potential spreader of contagions — of asthma and allergies and possibly even sexual dysfunctions. He offers a reality check to proposed solutions that have fatal flaws (and may be worse than the problems they attempt to solve) including 'dematerialization,' improved AC energy efficiency, and clean energy options. In addition, he provides a list of changes that will help: reducing indoor heat, using fans, utilizing 'cool' roofs, and increasing vegetation. Well-written, thoroughly researched, with a truly global focus, the book offers much for consumers, environmentalists, and policy makers to consider before powering up to cool down. (June)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Book News Annotation:
Like many Americans, who are the world's top users of cooling energy, Cox (Land Institute, Salina, Kansas; former USDA geneticist) once relished the relief that air-conditioning provided from summer heat. But he has chosen not to live with refrigerated air due to concerns over its environmental impact. Describing himself as neither an ascetic or "econag," he examines energy consumption trends and issues in economic, health, and global contexts. Arguing that more efficient air-conditioners are not the answer, he describes more ecologically-sound cooling alternatives. The treatment is serious despite the popsicles on the cover. Annotation ©2010 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Losing our Cool shows how indoor climate control is colliding with an out-of-control outdoor climate. In America, energy consumed by home air-conditioning, and the resulting greenhouse emissions, have doubled in just over a decade, and energy to cool retail stores has risen by two-thirds. Now the entire affluent world is adopting the technology. As the biggest economic crisis in eighty years rolls across the globe, financial concerns threaten to shove ecological crises into the background. Reporting from some of the worlds hot zones—from Phoenix, Arizona, and Naples, Florida, to southern India—Cox documents the surprising ways in which air-conditioning changes human experience: giving a boost to the global warming that it is designed to help us endure, providing a potent commercial stimulant, making possible an impossible commuter economy, and altering migration patterns (air-conditioning has helped alter the political hue of the United States by enabling a population boom in the red-state Sun Belt).
While the book proves that the planets atmosphere cannot sustain even our current use of air-conditioning, it also makes a much more positive argument that loosening our attachment to refrigerated air could bring benefits to humans and the planet that go well beyond averting a climate crisis. Though it saves lives in heat waves, air-conditioning may also be altering our bodies sensitivity to heat; our rates of infection, allergy, asthma, and obesity; and even our sex drive. Air-conditioning has eroded social bonds and thwarted childhood adventure; it has transformed the ways we eat, sleep, travel, work, buy, relax, vote, and make both love and war. The final chapter surveys the many alternatives to conventional central air-conditioning. By reintroducing some traditional cooling methods, putting newly emerging technologies into practice, and getting beyond industrial definitions of comfort, we can make ourselves comfortable and keep the planet comfortable, too.
About the Author
Before joining the Land Institute in Salina, Kansas, as senior scientist in 2000, Stan Cox worked as a U.S. Department of Agriculture geneticist for thirteen years. His environmental writing has been widely published. He is the author of Sick Planet: Corporate Food and Medicine.
Table of Contents
1. "There's No Power on Earth That Can Stop It!"
2. Making the Weather
3. The Air-Conditioned Dream
4. Going Mobile
5. The Business Climate
6. Surviving the Great Indoors
7. India: Where "A/C" Means "VIP"
8. Inconspicuous Consumption
9. Coming Out of the Cold
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