In the United States of Woke, a futuristic dystopia where “progressives” run amok, the widespread use of air conditioning likely would be banned, even in the midst of summer’s oppressive heat and humidity.
Why? Because air conditioning not only threatens Mother Earth. It represents racism and “white supremacy,” which means it contradicts social, economic and environmental justice.
So states Eric Dean Wilson, an instructor and graduate student at the City University of New York. In a recent article for Time magazine, Wilson wrote about how air conditioning will destroy the planet. By doing so, Wilson demonstrates how the confluence of such “woke” dogmas as critical race theory, equity, environmental extremism and opposition to capitalism define the “progressive” approach to solving problems.
Wilson has no training in climate science or mechanical engineering. Nevertheless, he teaches “climate-themed writing and environmental justice” at CUNY’s Queens College. Wilson describes his recent book, After Cooling: On Freon, Global Warming, and the Terrible Cost of Comfort, as “a look at air conditioning’s contribution to climate violence, and a critique of the American addiction to personal comfort.”
According to that critique, inventors developed “mechanical cooling,” as Wilson describes it, to help business. As air conditioning became more widespread and available for homes, it “conveyed class status” that “often fell starkly along the color line, too, especially in the South” while “cleaving the world into civilized cooling and barbaric heat,” he wrote.
Though Wilson offers some technological alternatives, he believes the ultimate solution lies beyond science.
“Renewable energy infrastructure can take us only so far,” he wrote. “The rest of the work is cultural.”
Wilson’s solution combines the cultural and technological. He believes in enacting policies that emphasize public comfort over personal comfort. Specifically, those policies would involve “ensuring that the most vulnerable among the planet’s human inhabitants can keep cool through better access to public cooling centers, shade-giving trees, safe green spaces, water infrastructure to cool, and smart design,” he wrote.
Wilson’s conclusion not only summarizes the worldview of the fashionably “woke.” It reflects their panic.
“Privatized air conditioning survived the ozone crisis, but its power to separate — by class, by race, by nation, by ability — has survived, too,” he wrote. “Comfort for some comes at the expense of the life on this planet.
“It’s time we became more comfortable with discomfort. Our survival may depend on it.”
Yet several realities intrude on Wilson’s dreams of utopian justice.
Those realities include two he readily concedes. Air conditioning increased productivity and created new possibilities. It protected such commodities as cotton that were vulnerable to prolonged heat, therefore improving the transportation, quantity and quality of available goods. It enabled extremely hot, humid places to be inhabited, therefore helping reduce population density. It allowed people to gain more control over their own lives.
More importantly, air conditioning has helped save lives. Before the advent of “mechanical cooling,” severe heat waves could prove deadly. In France in 1911, more than 41,000 people died from a heat wave that lasted from early July to mid-September. For 15 consecutive days, Paris’ temperature dipped no lower than 86 degrees. In London, Bordeaux and Lyon, temperatures reached 104 degrees.
Most of the 41,000 who died were elderly or children younger than 2-years old. As a result, infant mortality increased 20 percent.
But human nature provides the most inconvenient reality. Every innovation or invention came from the natural human desire to make things more efficient, better, healthier, simpler, easier — and, yes, more comfortable. Wilson’s demand for others to become comfortable with discomfort not only ignores the spirit that led to human progress. It rejects that spirit.
If Wilson wants to dismiss comfort, then he should relinquish all of his electronic devices, his automobile, his appliances, any medicines he might be taking and his indoor plumbing.
The demand to become “comfortable with discomfort” means abandoning initiative and imagination, and submitting blindly to collective will or even superstition. It gives corporate tyrannies in the public and private sectors the excuse to impose themselves on their frustrated subjects. Consider, for example, how radicalized school boards and teachers’ unions dismiss parental concerns about critical race theory.
Ultimately, Wilson’s desired utopia has nothing to do with environmental reform or social justice. It has everything to do with centralized power enforcing a bland mediocrity that sabotages excellence, let alone true progress.
If hospitals become burdened by patients suffering heat stroke in the process — or if the very oldest and the very youngest must sacrifice their lives to preserve the planet — who cares?
Joseph Hippolito is a freelance writer and a regular contributor to FrontPage Magazine. His commentaries have appeared in The Federalist, The Stream, Wall Street Journal, Jerusalem Post and National Post.