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American craziness about temperature

There are a number of things I just can’t figure about Americans, but the one that’s more obvious, and numerical, than anything else is the way they (we) heat our buildings. I’m at the Hilton in Naples, Florida, and, in spite of growing environmental consciousness at hotels (it’s economic consciousness, too, of course–think how much it costs to change and wash sheets every day) my room was freezing. Or so it seemed to me, arriving from snowy New England. It waswonderfully warm outside but only 65 Fahrenheit in the hotel room and it felt colder than my house–which I keep, believe it or not, at 58 degrees–because of the lovely tropical evening temperature outside. At least I can control the temperature in my hotel room, but in restaurants I need a sweater! This is true in Great Barrington (where some buildings now have air conditioning as well as elevators), as well as in major cities, during the summer. So much for consciousness about climate change.

I brought this up with a well-known environmentalist not long ago, and to my surprise he had not recognized the simple fact that would be my platform pitch were I to step on a soapbox at Speakers Corner: Americans cool their homes in summer (or the Florida winter) to a temperature considerably lower than they heat to in winter. I can attribute this only to a profound desire to conquer nature, to distort the rhythms of the natural world. Good soapbox material, don’t you think?

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