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Thread: The social and economic influence of Air Conditioning.

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    Cyburbian michaelskis's avatar
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    The social and economic influence of Air Conditioning.

    So the lack of working A/C in our office today makes me think about itís significance in the world today. Can you imaging places like Las Vegas, LA, Orlando, and hot places without A/C?

    How important to you think that the concept of Air Conditioning is to the overall sustainability to the US economy? What about the world economy?
    Not my monkey, not my circus. - Old Polish Proverb

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    Cyburbian boilerplater's avatar
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    Its as significant to the development of the sunbelt as the sodbuster plow design was to farming of the great plains. A lot of people wouldn't tolerate sunbelt climates if it weren't for A/C.
    Adrift in a sea of beige

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    Cyburbian jread's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by boilerplater
    A lot of people wouldn't tolerate sunbelt climates if it weren't for A/C.
    You couldn't be more correct. I would NOT live here if there were no A/C. Period. In fact, I can barely survive here with A/C

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    Member Wulf9's avatar
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    Alternate answer. People developed lifestyles and building designs based on climate prior to air conditioning. After air conditioning, everyone started living a temperate climate lifestyle.

    Around here, it's beautiful from 7 p.m. to 10 a.m. and very hot in between. Without a.c., we would do a lot more in the evening and morning.

    Oh, wait a minute, it's getting hot. I have to turn up the air conditioner.

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    Quote Originally posted by Wulf9
    Alternate answer. People developed lifestyles and building designs based on climate prior to air conditioning. After air conditioning, everyone started living a temperate climate lifestyle.
    I'd agree with this. A/C allows people to live in a way that's not conducive to Sunbelt climates. Without A/C, I think much of the Southeast would've developed as it has, but at a smaller scale; the Southwest would have far fewer people.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian michaelskis's avatar
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    Well there is also the influence that it has had on sky scrapers. These buildings have glass as outer walls that often act much like greenhouse windows. More so, many of these windows donít open. Just think of the descriptions of how hot and muggy it got inside the Superdome, and that does not even have windows. The air conditioning system inside of a skyscraper is much like the lungs inside of the human body.

    Without A/C I donít think that sky scrapers would exist, Vegas would not be a quarter of the size, Southern Florida would not have any retirement villages, and the south west would be one of the slowest growing places in the US.
    Not my monkey, not my circus. - Old Polish Proverb

  7. #7
    Cyburbian dobopoq's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by boilerplater
    .... A lot of people wouldn't tolerate sunbelt climates if it weren't for A/C.
    And a lot of people wouldn't tolerate wearing the ridiculous throat-choking fashions of Corporate America if it weren't for A/C either.

    It has both contributed to and been strengthened by the flight to suburbia. Both A/C and suburbia represent a loss of public culture, community and outdoorsiness in general. Consequently they represent a victory for private indoor activities, that exaccerabe our growing problem with obesity - already present in the pre-A/C era when there was a general trend toward increasingly sedentary occupations and lifestyles.

    They also add to the urban heat island effect. Every apartment or house that spits heat out with A/C, makes the air just a little hotter for everyone else. In much the same way, people often complain about traffic even though it is a problem to which they are directly contributing to themselves. Some people smoke because if they stop, they start to gain weight. Then because of smoking, their teeth turn grey and their skin ages pre-maturely, so they resort to other "products" like tooth-whitening toothpaste and plastic surgery until it becomes an overgrown web of compensatory consumption.

    A/C makes person lazy, lazy person becomes fat, fat person uses more A/C, and on, and on....

    It only adds to our growing dissasociation from the awareness of cause and effect. As Kunstler likes to point out, how else could we drive around in an air-conditioned Hummer with a, "War Is Not The Answer" sticker on it?
    "The current American way of life is founded not just on motor transportation but on the religion of the motorcar, and the sacrifices that people are prepared to make for this religion stand outside the realm of rational criticism." -Lewis Mumford

  8. #8
    New Orleans was the 3rd biggest city in the country in 1840. That was 100 years before AC.

    But yeah, for sure we wouldn't have as much growth in the humid South and the desert Southwest if it weren't for AC. Northern transplants just wouldn't be able to cope with it.

    In Tucson, people used to sleep on screened-in porches and they'd dip blankets in water and hang them across the screens with fans facing in, so the water would evaporate toward them during the night. Everybody marked the beginning of summer with "moving day," that is, when it was time to move all the beds outside onto the porches.

    When I lived there (in the "student ghetto") our house only had a swamp (evaporative) cooler. It was fine for me, but I spend very little time at home during the hottest hours of the day.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian jsk1983's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by dobopoq
    And a lot of people wouldn't tolerate wearing the ridiculous throat-choking fashions of Corporate America if it weren't for A/C either.
    People wore alot more "throat-choking" fashions before A/C. The notion of short pants is relatively new. Suits seemed to be a lot more common years ago than they are today.

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    Cyburbian dobopoq's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by jsk1983
    People wore alot more "throat-choking" fashions before A/C. The notion of short pants is relatively new. Suits seemed to be a lot more common years ago than they are today.
    True. But the geographic center of population in the lower 48, has been moving southwest for several decades now, instead of merely west. My point was sort of that largely because of A/C, the dominant fashions of corporate America which originated in cold to mild climates (England/France), have been able to be imported into the desert southwest. A/C spread as the % of white collar jobs increased. In blue collar jobs, you're supposed to sweat, but no one much cares what you wear. But A/C has become an unspoken expectation of white collar job culture, where sweat is shunned, and the ubiquitous yoke of gender based fashion constrictions demand a constant fixed temperature in total denial of climactic conditions outside. It only makes it that much easier for corporations to sever any connections to a specific place they may have, leaving them free to plunder the earth; externalities be damned.

    Perhaps we have hot weather climates to thank somewhat for loosening these fashion contraints.
    "The current American way of life is founded not just on motor transportation but on the religion of the motorcar, and the sacrifices that people are prepared to make for this religion stand outside the realm of rational criticism." -Lewis Mumford

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    Cyburbian
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    Does AC contribute to the global warming?

    Not a meteologist but just curious about it. Imagine that the total energy will stay in balance, but when the air conditioners take the humid and hot air out, maybe the outside will be much hotter, and thus will make a city much hotter.
    English is my second language, but the earth is my first hometown

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    Cyburbian dobopoq's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by back yard
    Not a meteologist but just curious about it. Imagine that the total energy will stay in balance, but when the air conditioners take the humid and hot air out, maybe the outside will be much hotter, and thus will make a city much hotter.
    If the energy to power AC comes from the burning of fossil fuels, then yes. And yes, purely in terms of temperature, if everyone on Manhattan uses AC to keep their apartments cool in the summer, then the outside air on the island is by necessity, hotter than it would feel in the absence of AC.
    "The current American way of life is founded not just on motor transportation but on the religion of the motorcar, and the sacrifices that people are prepared to make for this religion stand outside the realm of rational criticism." -Lewis Mumford

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    Cyburbian
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    I'm frozen

    Has anyone thought about why the air conditioning and heating systems work too well in the summer and winter in the U.S.?

    Most of the time in the summer I have to wear sweaters inside the office, or put a blanket on if no one else will see it, but the outside is very hot. In the winter I can wear short-sleeve t-shirt inside, while the outside is snowing. It's a little bit annoying. In addition to other circumstances, no wonder that the country is the largest engergy consumer in the world.

    Maybe we can save some energy by tuning up/down the temperature a little bit, and also make the indoor environment much more comfortable.
    English is my second language, but the earth is my first hometown

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    Cyburbian otterpop's avatar
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    When I was a kid in New Orleans we had AC in one room, the den. Can't really recall the heat. When I was 10 or so we got cetral air. After that I couldn't imagine not having AC.

    Living in Montana, you feel the need for AC for 30-45 days (July to mid August). Usually the judicious use of fans suffices for comfort sake. We do have an AC unit in our office, though. Running right now!
    "I am very good at reading women, but I get into trouble for using the Braille method."

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    Cyburbian zman's avatar
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    I just like it cold. Cooler in the winter here, and blasting the a/c in the summer. Of course, I do not have a/c at my house and everyone at work gets "too cold"

    I'll just add that to my list of things to tell my therapist about when the pinnacle is topped...
    You get all squeezed up inside/Like the days were carved in stone/You get all wired up inside/And it's bad to be alone

    You can go out, you can take a ride/And when you get out on your own/You get all smoothed out inside/And it's good to be alone
    -Peart

  16. #16
    Cyburbian nerudite's avatar
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    We have central air in our house, but we have yet to turn it on in two years living here. I was ready to turn on the heat by mid-August this year, but we have so much dust due to the reconstruction of the basement that we can't turn on the heat yet. The mornings are really cold.

  17. #17
    Cyburbian Plus
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    Growing up down at the Jersey Shore no A/C, occasionally fans were used.
    Living in the Midwest now, got to have A/C during the Triple H (hazy, hot and humid) summers -
    because work is a sealed up office, got to sleep at night and not at work.
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    Cyburbian Plus Zoning Goddess's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by dobopoq
    A/C makes person lazy, lazy person becomes fat, fat person uses more A/C, and on, and on....
    I think it's the opposite. There are plenty of fat people who do not have a/c. And, having a/c makes it easier to continue activities in the summer, rather than just sit on the front porch with an iced tea, watching the world go by. A big difference between the south and the north is that many of our outdoor activities are seasonally reversed. We do major garden projects, go camping, hiking, etc. in the winter. So when most northerners are holed up inside, running their heaters all day, every day, we have our windows open and are outside all the time. Do northerners get fat because they have furnaces??

  19. #19
    Cyburbian dobopoq's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Zoning Goddess
    I think it's the opposite. There are plenty of fat people who do not have a/c. And, having a/c makes it easier to continue activities in the summer, rather than just sit on the front porch with an iced tea, watching the world go by. A big difference between the south and the north is that many of our outdoor activities are seasonally reversed. We do major garden projects, go camping, hiking, etc. in the winter. So when most northerners are holed up inside, running their heaters all day, every day, we have our windows open and are outside all the time. Do northerners get fat because they have furnaces??
    I was just throwing this statement out:

    Originally posted by dobopoq
    A/C makes person lazy, lazy person becomes fat, fat person uses more A/C, and on, and on....
    as a hypothetical chain of causation, demonstrative of how A/C is an aspect of our consumer culture that often leads to a neverending chain of overconsumption.

    Interesting point you make though. My experience, growing up in the D.C. suburbs, was that adults get socialized to accept sitting still in ACed environments (work and home) such that they become conditioned to expect cool, sweat-free conditions which makes summer days seem hotter, (like wearing sunglasses and then taking them off all the sudden). Kids don't mind the heat as much because, aside from their smaller mass, they haven't yet been forced to spend the vast majority of their free time indoors.

    In the winter time, vigorous outdoor activities become funner because they keep you warm, even as the cold keeps you from getting too hot. I agree they're are plenty of fat people who don't have AC. If it's miserably hot and humid, you just want to sit around and drink (ala New Orleans big easy culture), but the chill of AC makes you want to move and do more things. But this can only be indoor things then. I can't see a person being as active within the confines of an ACed house or shopping mall as I can by going outside. The ubiquity of AC also makes the outside seem worse because many people will wear pants and long sleeve shirts in expectation of getting out of their cars upon arrival at some other artificially cool place in denial of the swelter outside.

    In the winter time, say your heat is paid by a landlord, and it's too strong and you can't turn it down - you'll have exactly the opposite problem of excessive AC in summer. You'll feel warm even in shorts, then put on some warmer clothes to go outside and your freezing in ten minutes because you're used to an excess of artificial heat. When I have lived in places with little heat in the winter, it doesn't make me want to sit around bundled up. Instead it makes me want to go out for a walk just to generate body heat even though its colder outside.

    I'm sure the winter makes lots of northerners more lazy but not in my case. I can see how wintertime in the south might seem more like spring or fall to a northerner. You're saying southerners are active in the winter because it's mild outside. Makes sense. Would you agree then though, that in the south, AC makes people more sedentary during summer because it's a respite and escape from the oppressive heat outside? Or do you think its that people in the south during summer become more lazy in general, only more so if they are without AC, than if they do have it.?

    I just notice how kids are less lazy than adults, and wonder if AC contributes at least in part to adults becoming more sedentary than they otherwise would be with the effects of aging alone. Maybe I'm reading too much into this?
    "The current American way of life is founded not just on motor transportation but on the religion of the motorcar, and the sacrifices that people are prepared to make for this religion stand outside the realm of rational criticism." -Lewis Mumford

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    Cyburbian Plus Zoning Goddess's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by dobopoq
    You're saying southerners are active in the winter because it's mild outside. Makes sense. Would you agree then though, that in the south, AC makes people more sedentary during summer because it's a respite and escape from the oppressive heat outside? Or do you think its that people in the south during summer become more lazy in general, only more so if they are without AC, than if they do have it.?
    Having lived here my entire life, I think a/c makes us more active. Remember the Andy Griffith Show where they would have a big Sunday dinner and then sit on the porch fanning themselves? We don't do that. We are cleaning, going to fitness classes and the Y (not me personally, of course), walking the mall, or even going outside and getting sweaty because you know you can walk back into a/c and cool down.

    We can't have blanket observations here. Yes, I'm more inclined personally to be sedentary in the summer because of the heat, then I want to be outside all the time in the winter. I am sure there are equally as many Yankees who stay huddled inside all winter and don't participate in anything remotely resembling physical effort. Same thing, different climates. I think the major impact of a/c is simply that more people live in the South, not that they change their lives.

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    Cyburbian dobopoq's avatar
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    The Connection Between AC, Cheap OIl, and Racism.

    Am I the only person who thinks of the climactically controlled bubble that people surround themselves in - known as AC, whereby people can wear a business suit in their car when it's 100 degrees outside, as a phenomenon emblematic of our anthropocentric abstraction of ourselves out of all connection to the natural environment, thus allowing us to more ruthlessly plunder and exploit the earth for personal gain?

    I see AC as yet another example of how we segregate uses, and compartmentalize activities in mainstream suburban America. A person who puts layers of clothes on top of their skin to stay warm in a cold climate, is still connected to their outside environment. But once a person resorts to AC to stay cool in a hot environment, they are surrounding themselves in an artificially controlled climactic bubble that makes it harder for them to maintain meaningful relationships to the outside world. Who cares that the inner city ghettos are made noisy and smog choked by the river of cars that cut through them on expressways, filled with people trying to escape the conditions that they themselves are only adding to in their effort to escape? So long as you have gas in your tank, and AC to filter out the foul air that your car is creating, who cares about the people stuck in the ghetto?

    These last two questions pretty much sum up the attitudes of post WWII America that have allowed people to sweep their awareness of their role and connection to the deterioration of America's inner cities, underneath the proverbial rug of expressways that keep America like a McDLT sandwhich. The rich side stays rich, the poor side stays poor.
    "The current American way of life is founded not just on motor transportation but on the religion of the motorcar, and the sacrifices that people are prepared to make for this religion stand outside the realm of rational criticism." -Lewis Mumford

  22. #22
    Cyburbian Plus Zoning Goddess's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by dobopoq
    Am I the only person who thinks of the climactically controlled bubble that people surround themselves in - known as AC, whereby people can wear a business suit in their car when it's 100 degrees outside, as a phenomenon emblematic of our anthropocentric abstraction of ourselves out of all connection to the natural environment, thus allowing us to more ruthlessly plunder and exploit the earth for personal gain?

    I see AC as yet another example of how we segregate uses, and compartmentalize activities in mainstream suburban America. A person who puts layers of clothes on top of their skin to stay warm in a cold climate, is still connected to their outside environment. But once a person resorts to AC to stay cool in a hot environment, they are surrounding themselves in an artificially controlled climactic bubble that makes it harder for them to maintain meaningful relationships to the outside world. Who cares that the inner city ghettos are made noisy and smog choked by the river of cars that cut through them on expressways, filled with people trying to escape the conditions that they themselves are only adding to in their effort to escape? So long as you have gas in your tank, and AC to filter out the foul air that your car is creating, who cares about the people stuck in the ghetto?

    These last two questions pretty much sum up the attitudes of post WWII America that have allowed people to sweep their awareness of their role and connection to the deterioration of America's inner cities, underneath the proverbial rug of expressways that keep America like a McDLT sandwhich. The rich side stays rich, the poor side stays poor.
    Um. Get a clue. Nobody would live up north without artificial heat, either. Tell me poor people up north can always afford heat. Thanks for being another one to slam the south.

  23. #23
    Cyburbian dobopoq's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Zoning Goddess
    Um. Get a clue. Nobody would live up north without artificial heat, either. Tell me poor people up north can always afford heat. Thanks for being another one to slam the south.
    Please don't berate my intelligence. Your concern with this topic appears to be more in terms of how it has led people to, as you said, live in the south more than they otherwise would without AC. In short, the geographic effect.

    My concern with this topic is more in terms of how it has impacted the social aspects of our culture, especially in combination with the simultaneous rise of car culture.

    It is also my view that AC has allowed us to put fashion concerns above awareness of a more sustainable adaptation to reality. The fact that people will wear more clothes than they need to because of AC means that they are wasting energy purely for superficial reasons. The use of heat to the extent that it allows you to write and do things with your bare hands is using energy for a less superficial purpose. Obviously when it gets to the point that someone wants to throw an indoor beach party while it is below freezing outside, then heat is being used in the same superficial manner that using AC to be able to tolerate wearing a suit with triple digit outdoor temperatures is.
    "The current American way of life is founded not just on motor transportation but on the religion of the motorcar, and the sacrifices that people are prepared to make for this religion stand outside the realm of rational criticism." -Lewis Mumford

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    Cyburbian Plus Zoning Goddess's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by dobopoq
    Please don't berate my intelligence. Your concern with this topic appears to be more in terms of how it has led people to, as you said, live in the south more than they otherwise would without AC. In short, the geographic effect.

    My concern with this topic is more in terms of how it has impacted the social aspects of our culture, especially in combination with the simultaneous rise of car culture.

    It is also my view that AC has allowed us to put fashion concerns above awareness of a more sustainable adaptation to reality. The fact that people will wear more clothes than they need to because of AC means that they are wasting energy purely for superficial reasons. The use of heat to the extent that it allows you to write and do things with your bare hands is using energy for a less superficial purpose. Obviously when it gets to the point that someone wants to throw an indoor beach party while it is below freezing outside, then heat is being used in the same superficial manner that using AC to be able to tolerate wearing a suit with triple digit outdoor temperatures is.
    So wearing wool coats and running the heat all the time is OK? Wasting energy for purely superficial reasons (your quote) is OK if you live up north? Oh, so the women can wear cute little suits instead of all-wool in the winter? So the men don't have to wear wooly-mammoth coats in the office? No boots with yak fur? Come on, every place has some climatological limitations. Your argument is northern-biased. Sorry. My rant over.

  25. #25
    Cyburbian dobopoq's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Zoning Goddess
    So wearing wool coats and running the heat all the time is OK? Wasting energy for purely superficial reasons (your quote) is OK if you live up north? Oh, so the women can wear cute little suits instead of all-wool in the winter? So the men don't have to wear wooly-mammoth coats in the office? No boots with yak fur? Come on, every place has some climatological limitations. Your argument is northern-biased. Sorry. My rant over.
    I'm sure there are plenty of Minneapolis business men who have to crank the AC in their cars when it get miserable hot while wearing a suit. My problem isn't with the south or AC. It's that because of AC, we say idiotic things like "I'm so hot." when it's only 80 degrees outside due to cultural expectations that we maintain a certain standard of gender-defined sartorial conformity. We should be free to put on or take off clothes as needs dictate in proportion to the outside air temperature. But because of AC, we are often expected and forced to dress in stark disregard of climactic reality.

    My point is that in the winter, no one is going to complain if you want to bundle up in sweaters at work. In the summer, things like shorts aren't acceptable office attire for men, and the expectation that you arrive at work in business clothes without being all sweaty and smelly is all based on the assumption that you are relying on cheap oil and AC to get you there; nevermind environmental concerns or the link between the gas you burn in your car and the American soldiers dying in Iraq to maintain our access to the oil that fuels your ACed car.

    Again, it seems you're talking more about North Vs. South, while I'm talking more about Winter Vs. Summer and the way Americans adapt to those temperature extremes. When we use heat in the winter, it's not so that we can look more sexy than we would in a winter coat and gloves; it's so that we can write with our bare hands; i.e. for fairly practical reasons. When we use AC in the summer it often tends to be as compensation for the expectation that we are wearing a certain business uniform which assumes we will have and use AC to make the business outfit tolerable in denial of the absurdity of wearing such clothes given the midday heat of summer.
    Last edited by dobopoq; 10 Sep 2005 at 9:07 PM.
    "The current American way of life is founded not just on motor transportation but on the religion of the motorcar, and the sacrifices that people are prepared to make for this religion stand outside the realm of rational criticism." -Lewis Mumford

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