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How Air Conditioning Created the Modern City

September 14th, 2018 | 1 min read

By Jake Meador

From The Guardian:

Once, when I was staying in Houston, Texas, my host was showing me round her house. It included a mighty fireplace.

“How often does it get cold enough to light a fire?” I asked, as what little I knew about the city included the fact that it is mostly hot and humid. Maybe once or twice a year, she replied, but her husband came from Wisconsin. He liked a log fire. So they would turn up the air conditioning and light one.

Reading this reminded me of a poem by Wendell Berry in which he encourages people to:

Breathe with unconditional breath
the unconditioned air.
Shun electric wire.
Communicate slowly. Live
a three-dimensioned life;
stay away from screens.
Stay away from anything
that obscures the place it is in.
There are no unsacred places;
there are only sacred places
and desecrated places.

These issues are always enormously complex, of course, and it’d be foolish to deny the ways in which conditioned air has improved human life. But there are always trade offs with these developments as well as ways that technology can be abused. To use technology well, of course, requires certain virtues. If we lack those virtues, the technology that blesses can just as easily curse.

Jake Meador

Jake Meador is the editor-in-chief of Mere Orthodoxy. He is a 2010 graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln where he studied English and History. He lives in Lincoln, NE with his wife Joie, their daughter Davy Joy, and sons Wendell, Austin, and Ambrose. Jake's writing has appeared in The Atlantic, Commonweal, Christianity Today, Fare Forward, the University Bookman, Books & Culture, First Things, National Review, Front Porch Republic, and The Run of Play and he has written or contributed to several books, including "In Search of the Common Good," "What Are Christians For?" (both with InterVarsity Press), "A Protestant Christendom?" (with Davenant Press), and "Telling the Stories Right" (with the Front Porch Republic Press).