The Human Air Condition

I’ve always enjoyed sweating, whether it was a result of my own efforts or resulting from extremely humid weather. Not until the summer of 1994 when I was 10 years old did my parents get a one room air conditioner, and that was for the back “addition” room with the one television we had in the house. We used it rarely, and in all the other rooms and for all the times previous and since, we would sweat through the days (I remember laying on the floor a lot), without television but usually one another’s company. For the nighttime we had a big attic fan that created a beautiful artificial breeze by pulling in the cooler night air. I would stare out my window and “nightdream” as the breeze had in it such vitality that I couldn’t help but be swept away, euphoric visions permeating my “open chakra”.

I wasn’t aware of the relative geographical and historical uniqueness of my temperature, barometric? (not sure if using correct), and air moisture upbringing until much pondering about the experience of others and of climate itself. Such rumination would also be met with snippets of conversations overheard from my geographical neighbors lamenting how much they hated the New Jersey humidity but loved hot weather that they could access in Arizona: “it’s not the heat, it’s the humidity that kills me” they would repeat one another in the obnoxious whiny Jersey accent. How different I truly was in my preferred flavor of clime became more obvious to me still following a winter in Central America. That excursion allowed me to almost fully skip over a cold North East (and more importantly still, the indoor heating that is what our bodies most associate with winter these days, even if our thoughts focus on the outdoor chill!). Every winter since then I have lambasted my fate to be born into a climate that has to deal with such a low swing in its weather!

It is my thinking that air conditioning in the summer and dry heated air in the winter (and shorter spring and fall weather, but that is for another post) have caused an unhealthy adaption in many modern humans (western hemisphere white westerners, at least) that is atypical of all but specially adapted life, such as the cacti family. I say this is atypical because the places most full of life are those places that have the highest humidity, whether they be on land (rainforests), the interchange between air and fluid atmosphere (mangroves), and the obviously humid, water atmosphere locales with a cuddling warmth and good sun exposure like that afforded to coral reefs. How can one living not feel a love and a kinship with such a place, especially as a hairless ape not really designed for cold weather sans technological handicaps? There is an obvious dynamism at play in jungles, when water concentration in the air is at a certain “sweet spot” which we dub humid; when this humidity is not there (or is not trapped by the wild plant and fungi life there), then deserts or desertification begin to occur. Deserts to me, however, are less frightening than the places that are desert-ifying such as the should-be lush New Jersey. This is evident to me not just by means of intellectual observations, but by the increase in dryer days that my body can immediately sense, along with the night-to-day grand temperature swings that give evidence to a weakening biomass unable to as effectively modulate heat.

When I was young the obsession for environmentalists—at least what penetrated into school classrooms—was the depleting ozone layer, but I’m thinking for humans to be screwing up the ozone layer, we must by necessity be screwing with a lot of layers as well, especially the ones closest to us and right under us. The top soil, which is the nonnegotiable home to the besieged plant and fungi kingdoms, is eroding in a vicious cycle started and fueled by “human development”. Such development means a clearing of forests (murdering of trees) and thus looses the grip on the soil, which is then quite often to be buried and dried out under concrete and asphalt tombstones.

Some people may like the immediate effects of this climate change because their bodies and their values (anti-sweat) are partial to it. The long-term effects of such climate change they can easily dismiss as ideological, and there are a smorgasbord of easy cliches available to comfort them, such as “if it’s meant to happen, it will happen”… What about, “If our grandchildren are all meant to die, it’s out of our hands… but in the meantime I love having a nice leather steering wheel in my hands!”? Most of my neighbors thought today was a beautiful day. Me, I was comfortable in shorts, but my skin and lungs felt the dryness and so I’d call it an average day—the new average. Most may have been conditioned to love it, but I miss the old vitality in the air that my body remembers being much more frequent. But I don’t get to individually choose my climate without migrating to a radically different geography, and so I guess the conditioning of some becomes the condition of all.

A final question for you, dear reader:

If we can be conditioned to something so basic as air, what else have we been and are we going to be conditioning ourselves to?

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