Thursday, June 29, 2006

The wackiness that is Alternet.

Every so often I visit Occasionally, it has something interesting, like this, which is a nice little opinion piece on how the left should deal with the religious. Basic idea is: be nice to 'em, treat 'em respectfully, but get 'em to back the hell off from trying to explain anything. Religion has no place in politics, and vote-buying by kowtowing to religious groups is nuts.

But, then I see crap like this (1, 2), and realize they're just fruitcakes (hence, "loony left", eh?). The "argument", such as it is, is that air conditioning is an "unsustainable" technology (uses too much fuel, etc.) and that people shouldn't live in hot places. I'm shocked that there's no companion article arguing people shouldn't live in Scandinavia because it's too cold in winter and they'll just waste fuel heating their homes. It's really the same argument.

The problem is not the basic idea of regulating temperature. Humans have been doing that for years. The problem is twofold: first, our homes are not designed to retain heat in winter but also lose heat in summer; and, second, the technologies we use to heat and cool our homes are wasteful. So, two obvious solutions: first, build homes better (instead of cookie-cutter townhouses dumped in the middle of a previously open field, with no regard for where the sun will hit them and such); and, second, develop more efficient technologies for regulating temperature (instead of burning natural gas and running a pump while pushing air through a refrigerated region, respectively). Simple.

But the idea that air conditioning is inherently bad is part of this loony left idea that we should all eat vegan organic foods and walk to work and so on and so forth. There's no good principled arguments for these sorts of views, and, practically, they're a nightmare (largely because they will never be accepted by the average person). Instead of pretending we can create some environmentalist utopia, I humbly suggest we simply try to improve the way our world actually operates.


Cidney said...

Some of the comments on that post were particularly amusing -- "Do you ever wonder why countless billions of people who live in areas of the world where it gets really hot manage to survive without AC?" And there seems to be some implication that Southerners are more conservative and therefore don't deserve temperature control in the same way progressive Northerners do. But I digress. As a Floridian I've been around and even guilty of AC abuse (leaving it on while out of the house, etc), and it is definitely something that needs to be regulated. Taking the leap from "overuse of X leads to environmental problems" to "X should be eliminated entirely" is an unrealistic proposition that seems far too common among environmentalist groups, and often leads to just this kind of lack of credibility (which does more harm than good for the cause).

ADHR said...

You read the comments? Brave of you. I couldn't stand that any more than the nuts who frequent LGF.

If you look at voting patterns, Southerners do tend to vote Republican. I tend to like what Howard Dean said on The Daily Show (last time he was on): the Democrats -- and more progressive groups -- shouldn't just write off the South. Given that less than half of the US population votes, chances are good there's a lot of progressive people in the South that would love to vote for the Democrats, if there was a candidate they cared for.

You're quite right, though, that there's a clear Northern bias in that article. As I mentioned, you can run exactly the same argument for heating homes as you can for cooling them. And heating homes is a big issue in most parts of the North, given the fairly extreme winters.

As far as regulation, I'm not sure A/C use necessarily needs to be regulated. Part of the problem, as I said, is that homes lose cool air in the summer, hence have to be constantly cooled; and, A/C units are quite inefficient. Regulation -- say, like Ontario is considering, with charging differentially for electricity depending on time of use -- is a bit of a blunt instrument, I think.

I get really infuriated when environmentalists can't be bothered to offer any alternatives for the "horrible" thing they're opposed to, though. It's a common problem on the left. For example, leftists who oppose factory farms, but don't explain how hundreds of family farms are supposed to distribute food to the millions of people they need to.