When we were on holiday in Spain, it was noticeable from the first moments that, in the absence of air conditioning, room fans and through-draughts would be vital to our comfort in the apartment. The sea breeze was a Godsend. When we did visit a large shopping mall or indeed drive anywhere, we were cushioned by air conditioning. The car’s dashboard thermometer may have read 35º celsius (95º Farenheit) 0r more, but we didn’t comprehend what that actually meant, at least not while the cool, cool fan soothed and refreshed us.
The more I experienced the lung-melting, muscle-sapping heat as we opened the car doors, the more I felt that the air-conditioning was a blessing, but possibly also a blassing in disguise. Don’t get me wrong: I wouldn’t have been without it on our holiday. But I do feel that it effectively works against nature, as though mankind uses it to deny the true nature of our environment and habitat.
I feel that it’s important to understand how to live within a climate, rather than simply ignoring or denying its difficulties. By understanding and experiencing the climate, we are more likely to respect it and adapt our behaviour, for instance through adopting a siesta lifestyle and mentality. Insulating ourselves to a constant 68º Farenheit effectively prevents mankind from evolving coping strategies to sustain life in such a climate.
Of course I understand that creating air conditioning is an evolutionary act in itself. But my point is that we’re in conflict with nature, rather than working with or alongside it.
The autovia del mediterraneo motorway is a stunning piece of engineering. On one 12 mile stretch between Nerja and Motril, over half the distance covered is either tunnels through the mountains that plummet down towards the sea, or vertiginous bridges over the gorges and gullies. The drive from Motril to Granada is even more stunning, as I’ve previously reckoned…
But when I drove the old coast road around the headlands, diving up and down the steep hillsides, it’s a different kind of experience. I understood the true nature of the terrain. Amazing.
Years ago, when I travelled to Toronto in Canada, I marvelled at the miles of underground shopping malls, cinemas and car parks, primarily designed to enable the city to continue to function during Toronto’s frigid winters. Other Canadian centres have similar underground cities to protect their inhabitants from the bitter cold. Did it ever cross their minds that mankind perhaps shouldn’t live in such a brutal climate?
This isn’t by any means a fully-formed ‘reckon’. It’s not even fully informed, but it is what occurred to me when I cruised across the astonishing bridges, and tried to function in the midday heat of an Andalucian summer. Does our ability to overcome nature make us immune to its danger and challenges?
And it made me think of this fantastic REM song…