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The Heat is On!

By Lauren Salathiel

I have a confession to make. This week, I considered bribing my local librarian to allow me to sleep in the library overnight, so hot was my house.

Living in an old un-air-conditioned house isn’t too bad for the first two days of a heatwave. But the third is a killer.

However, while sprawled on the couch with wet face-washers on my head, I had some time to think.

My grandmothers lived through conditions like this without relying on emissions-generating mechanised climate control. People all around the world continue to do so, to this day.

We’re hooked on air conditioning – we move from air-conditioned homes to cars, past shops blasting icy air into the street, into offices where it can be so cold we need add layers to work out an entire day.

It’s an addiction that has dire consequences for the environment, but a newish addiction that we can kick.

How one deals with heat is a matter of perspective, and there’s evidence to support the idea that living in air-conditioned spaces for most of the summer reduces one’s tolerance for heat.

I’m of the opinion that our reliance on air conditioning also comes with an opportunity cost.

Instead of recognising hot summers as an imposed period of relaxation and slow living, of siestas, languid evening strolls and nights on our verandahs enjoying the cool breeze, we fight the conditions to maintain “business as usual”.

So, during these past few hot weeks, I’ve taken to using some analogue measures for keeping cool that I think granny would approve of:

  • Wet face-washers and a fan provide a localised cooling effect;
  • Cold showers (or running under the sprinkler) cool your central core, which in turn cools your extremities;
  • Resting and reading during the hottest period of the day, and then setting out in the evening for a picnic in the coolest part of town (for me, the creek!) often means spontaneous rendezvous with friends doing the same thing;
  • Perfecting the art of cross-ventilation at home by shutting up the house during the day, and manoeuvring windows open across the building to catch the evening breeze.

Which is not to say that it’s not a hot and sweaty experience. But a bit of sweat might just be worth the environmental benefits.

And, when it gets really tough, there’s always the library…