(The Guardian) -- We think of air conditioning as a “first world” luxury, but it’s really more of an American one. In Europe, fewer than 5% of households have air conditioning, according to the International Energy Agency, and even in hot regions like Africa, Latin America and the Middle East, only 8% of households have it. In the US, nearly 90% of households are air conditioned.
In New York, where the summer reverberates with the hum of air conditioners, that percentage seems even higher. Along certain avenues, you walk in a sprinkle of condensation dripping from row after row of window units above, never quite sure if you’re supposed to be disgusted. In Queens, where I live, one of my neighbors runs their window unit almost all year long, cooling their apartment in winter against the steam radiator that the landlord keeps on full blast around the clock, and in summer against, well, the summer. The poor unit only gets a couple months of rest a year, in the spring and the fall, though even then the person often runs it in fan mode, probably because the sudden absence of the machine’s roar is so unnerving.