Sunday, September 13, 2015

Forecast 2 — The air inside our homes

A copy of the article / resource / link / book title, author, chapter etc.

Looking for some dialogue on air conditioning and/or heating, I found this passage in the Ascent of Humanity:

"Why is the technological fix so attractive? Because from the short-term perspective, it really does work. The first digging stick really did make it easier to obtain roots. A cup of coffee really does make us feel energized. A good stiff drink really does make the pain go away. Air conditioning makes us feel cooler on a hot day. Cars get us there faster. Fertilizer boosts the yield. With each stage of construction, the Tower rises higher. See, it’s working! We’re getting closer to the sky.
Invisible at first is the fact that the fix is a trap. At the end of the day, the coffee exhausts our adrenal glands and makes us more tired, not less. The air conditioning habituates us to a narrow range of comfort, trapping us indoors. Cars inevitably bring more roads, more cars, and more time in transit. Food production technology brings population increases, and eventually less security and more anxiety."

Looking for the solution, I found:

"Passive cooling can rely on a wide range of cooling strategies, including solar control, ventilation, evaporation and radiant cooling. The goal is to modify the microclimate to provide comfort for occupants. Comfort may come from evaporative cooling, conductive cooling or radiant cooling.
Ventilation by opening windows and capturing cooling breezes is often sufficient to provide comfort in temperate areas. Ventilation can also be used to cool off thermal mass when outside temperatures drop at night to store coolness for use during the following day. Evaporation of water in a fountain, cool pool or roof pond can be used to provide powerful cooling. Radiant cooling to the cool night sky during the day can add additional cooling – and was used to make ice in ancient Iran. These strategies can provide sufficient cooling for full comfort in virtually any climate. Passive cooling can eliminate or minimize use of electricity while providing comfortable and healthy conditions.
The most powerful cooling system is a ‘cool pool’. The cool pool is a pool of water over the room that is in thermal contact with the room below but is fully shaded from the sun during the day and throughout the cooling season. The pool stays cool primarily by radiating heat to the cool night sky and evaporation."

Your analysis of the article in regards to its impact of the future

The dominant cultural narrative tells us that air conditioning is a necessity. When faced with a hot room, we seek out the nearest air conditioned space. It may someday be necessary to consider what spaces truly need it, and to what extent, and how we can use passive cooling to create temperate buildings as a longterm solution. 

The global impact, national impact, and local / personal impact

The manufacturing of air conditioners inevitably have hidden environmental costs, concentrated in poorer nations, where mining and production is likely to take place.

Nationally? "Two-thirds of all homes in the United States have air conditioners. Air conditioners use about 5% of all the electricity produced in the United States, at an annual cost of more than $11 billion to homeowners. As a result, roughly 100 million tons of carbon dioxide are released into the air each year -- an average of about two tons for each home with an air conditioner."

Personally, I only seek out air refuge in buildings that are running one anyway. I do not use an air conditioner in my own space, and this summer I chose not to use fans, as well. Having a lot of windows in my room is helpful, though.

Forecast the range of impact over the short term (the next 2 months to 2 years), to the long term (next 20 years to 20 + decades).

Short term: I imagine no significant change will occur. Perhaps they will be powered by solar in the future, or manufactured to be more "efficient."
Long term: Will air conditioners become more taboo as climate change occurs? Perhaps passive cooling will take over.

What could you do, or could be done to create the greatest positive impact on the future

Consider what you really need and reduce usage to a comfortable level. Seek out other spaces for cooling. Spend time outdoors in all seasons, and learn to enjoy and dress for the extremes.

What could you do, or could be done to create the greatest negative impact on the future

Let's all run air conditioners 24/7 on max blast, keeping our homes and workspaces at a brisk 65 degrees in the dead of summer.

“Which region of the future” does this related closest most to or does this fit in between – or perhaps a region of the future you’d like to define for yourself.

"Eco-tech." Elements include: conscious non-consumption and limiting of technology — shifting to naturally provided ways of fixing problems.


What are the barriers to implementing passive cooling?
What are your personal barriers in regards to this topic?
Other comments?

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Just keeping things on the up and up since this is for my students to communicate first.