Notes from Virginia: Love in the Time of Cholera, Air Conditioning, and Basic Human Rights

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Is the comfort of air conditioning worth the cost to the environment and to human interactions? We all have to decide for ourselves. Photo: Joe Hennager

Is the comfort of air conditioning worth the cost to the environment and to human interactions? Photo: Joe Hennager

At the end of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s book Love in the Time of Cholera, Florentino Ariza’s lifelong love is finally reciprocated. Fermina Daza, an aged widow, accepts his invitation to ride a riverboat down the Magdalena River. As owner of the company, he gives her the presidential suite.

The river’s nearly destroyed. Timber that held the bank of the river had been harvested to fuel the ships, to the point where it’s difficult to find any trees along the muddy riverbank. At the end of the trip, fearing the return to her former life, Fermina Daza says, “It will be like dying.” Florentino Ariza, to please his lover, commands the captain to turn around and continue puffing up and down the river. Jolly and obedient, the captain replies, “And how long do you think we can keep up this goddamn coming and going?” Florentino answers, “Forever.”

Air Conditioning

I recently had an argument with my partner, Lindsay. With humiliation that resembles Dr. Juvenal Urbino’s when he admits that it had only been three days, not seven as he had first accused, that soap had been missing from the bathroom, in short, an excruciating and painful humiliation that for most men is only ever experienced in domestic situations, I agreed to install the air conditioning unit our neighbors lent us.

Notice that they don’t invite us over for lunch or coffee. They stopped by one day and left an air conditioner on the porch.

I prefer a less obnoxious method of cooling the house, what Marquez calls the Roman style. At night I run a big fan at the window, blowing out, and in the day I shut the windows and blinds. I told Lindsay that if it got hotter than 80 degrees, I’d install the air conditioner. After four days of bickering, and a thermostat that wouldn’t budge past 79 degrees, things got ugly.

Essentially, I either loved her, and would install the air conditioner, or I didn’t love her, and she would leave me and take our baby.

Picking basil for pasta, I considered the proposition.

Florentino Lorenzo’s devotion to the woman, not the river, provided the justification I needed to save my love life from impending solitude and regret. Love, truly, is worth an air conditioner. Once inside, angry to see her still angry, I said I would install it, but tried to set some terms about when it could be used…which she refused. We ate the pasta in a hurry. She left to babysit for a friend.

The next morning, cheery again, no doubt because of my concession, she related some of the ridicule our friends had administered behind my back. “Do you have a fridge? I’m going to come take that!” one said, pointing out the arrogance inherant in depriving someone of such a right. Regarding an indirect argument I made about climate change and the famine in Somalia, the other said, “Oh please! Those things have nothing to do with each other.” I hotly explained how global warming causes desertification. She shook her head. I scowled.

It is cool today, below 80 degrees, and I’m putting off the installation, like a communist does the revolution.

Basic Human Rights

My mom emailed me, in a panic, you know how moms are. “You need to get your own insurance, you’re not eligible to be on your father’s anymore, because your graduate program offers you your own insurance deal.” It’s not a deal, really. It’s basically private insurance channeled through a state university for a minimally deduced price. You might be familiar with it. I make $16,000 a year, so paying $2500 for my own insurance is sort of sickening. Of course, I still have to pay if I get sick, with deductions and percentages, the game of mousetrap I have to play to get the company to pay anything. I replied with one letter, “k,” and turned off my computer.

I was planting leeks when a siren went off. “This is not a test, seek shelter immediately” says a booming male voice. I assumed tornado. Only a few clouds, no wind. I continued mulching. Why do I think the disaster is always going to come from the direction of the voice, anyway? Actually, there was a man reported carrying a gun on campus, in a hurry. This is Virginia Tech, so we are scared. Reasonably so, actually. Sadly.

What if I got shot in the shoulder. (I’m thinking like my mom, now.) Would I be able to afford to get the bullet removed?

I wonder why it is that most Americans consider air conditioning a necessity, but not health insurance. Why is it that the conveniences that isolate us from each other, encourage us to stay indoors, in our own homes, accept the closing of public pools, libraries, and take away the common thing we have to complain about, in short, kill summer, why is that more important to the public than public health insurance?

If Lindsay had told our friends that she didn’t have insurance (the truth), I imagine they would have bitten their tongues, or said, “Times are hard,” with the embarrassing awkwardness most Americans exhibit when anything political is mentioned.

But air conditioning is political. We’re not only losing a valuable, shared tradition of struggling to stay cool in the summer, isolating ourselves inside private homes. We’re not only providing dividends for irresponsible coal mining companies that strip away the local landscape. We’re also increasing demand for greenhouses gases. Whether or not they believe it, I believe the toll of climate change won’t only affect African countries, but economies, lifestyles and cultures, ranging from Oklahoma, to Iowa.

In the words of Bob Dylan, “What you gonna do when you can’t play God no more?” Maybe we should all accept a summer with a dose of humility, and sweat it out.

Elias Simpson

Contributing Writer

Blue Planet Green Living


Coolerado AC Units Excel at DOE/NREL Performance Challenge

August 25, 2009 by  
Filed under 2009, Blog, California, DOE, Electricity, Energy, Front Page, Water

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Coolerado's H80 unit undergoes testing by the National Regional Educational Laboratory. Photo courtesy: Coolerado

Coolerado's H80 unit undergoes testing by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Photo courtesy: Coolerado

At Blue Planet Green Living, we’re always pleased to share news about products we believe in. In April, we wrote about Coolerado, a super-efficient air conditioner that uses far less electricity than conventional AC units. Recently, Rick Gillan, Executive VP of Coolerado wrote to tell us about Coolerado’s top performance in a challenge issued by the University of California at Davis. We’re pleased to give you this update. — Julia Wasson, Publisher

University of California, Davis issued a challenge to manufacturers to build more efficient air conditioners for the Western U.S. The objective was to exceed the 2010 U.S. Department of Energy efficiency standards by an aggressive 40 percent. Coolerado Corporation, the first certified winner of the UC Davis Western Cooling Challenge, entered the program with its new hybrid commercial rooftop unit — a system using its proprietary indirect evaporative technology in concert with a traditional compressor and refrigerant system. DOE laboratory testing indicates that Coolerado’s new system, the Coolerado H80, beat the 2010 standards by 60 percent at peak demand and will use 80 percent less energy overall.

Testing revealed that the new H80 also has the Coolerado signature: Cooling capacity increases as outside temperature increases — not typical of other systems. Eric Kozubal, senior mechanical engineer at the DOE National Renewable Energy Laboratory, conducted the testing and said, “In western climates, the Coolerado H80 provides cooling and ventilation for buildings at efficiency far above standard equipment available today. Laboratory testing shows that the H80 provides consistent cooling performance even when temperatures rise above 95 degrees.”

“The UC Davis challenge also targeted water conservation, limiting water use for technologies that use evaporation as part of the cooling process,” said Mark Modera, director of the UC Davis Western Cooling Efficiency Center. “The water allowance in the challenge was set such that water used at the air conditioner should be mitigated by the savings in water required to produce less power. DOE/NREL determined that the water use for the Coolerado H80 is less than the objective set by UC Davis and is about the same amount of water that will be used to generate electricity for a traditional air conditioner meeting the new DOE 2010 standard.”

Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) tests a Coolerado H80. Photo courtesy: Coolerado

Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) tests a Coolerado H80. Photo courtesy: Coolerado

The H80 is the first system Coolerado is offering that includes dehumidification, recirculation and an option for heating. The H80 delivers over five tons of air conditioning at 105 degrees Fahrenheit, which is equivalent to larger traditional systems that lose capacity as outside temperatures climb. In some extreme operating conditions and climates, the Coolerado H80 will deliver as much cooling as an eight-ton conventional system and will have an Energy Efficiency Ratio (EER) over 20.

Coolerado began taking H80 orders in August for delivery late this year and is currently building several units which will be delivered to Australia for installation during its cooling season (December). Customers may expect to realize a two-year payback on the price of the H80 through energy savings, utility rebates, and tax incentives.

The unit that was initially tested at the DOE lab in Golden, Colorado is operational on a building at a college in Sacramento, California. The Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) will be monitoring the energy savings of the unit during the next several years.

Coolerado air conditioners are available for purchase through its distribution network, which can be accessed by visiting

Additional Resources

Coolerado website:
Coolerado blog:
Coolerado press releases:
Coolerado on Twitter: @Coolerad

About Coolerado Corporation

Coolerado Corporation develops, manufactures and sells innovative air conditioning systems that use up to one tenth of the energy required by the most efficient conventional systems. Coolerado air conditioners are green, reducing greenhouse gases tenfold compared to traditional systems. Coolerado also creates a healthier, more comfortable, living environment by providing continuous fresh air as an integral part of the cooling process. For more information, visit

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