Friday, July 28, 2006

When to Spot an American Outdoors

Americans spend most of their time indoors. And one can make a pretty good generalization about when Americans venture out of their climate controlled environments. As political scientist Sebastian de Grazia forecasted in his Of Time, Work, and Leisure (1962):
Together, indoor work and indoor at-homeness [after work, as well as indoor free-time in general] may make the American timorous of outdoor temperatures below 60º or above 85ºF. Certainly his ingenuity at the technology of central and individual unit heating makes it difficult to feel cold in America without deliberately going ice skating, or being foolhardy enough to take a walk instead of a ride on a wintry Sunday. He is somewhat better at withstanding heat and humidity than cold, but with the coupled heating and cooling systems now appearing it won't be long before he feels suffocated on the un-air-conditioned summer street. (184-185)


Anonymous said...


A Green Cowboy said...

Interesting forecast from 1962.

It's very true, and has so many ramifications for individuals and society. When you forget what the world is really like - when you live your life in controlled conditions that only rarely fail - it is, in many ways, the first step towards forgetting so many basic truths.

Recently, a friend told me that the modern US has never experienced a real drought, one that lasts for decades and brings precipitation to a near grinding halt, making the dust bowl look like a mere dry spell. I don't know if this is true, but there are definitely harsh lessons in our future about our dependence on the climate...