cover image After Cooling: On Freon, Global Warming, and the Terrible Cost of Comfort

After Cooling: On Freon, Global Warming, and the Terrible Cost of Comfort

Eric Dean Wilson. Simon & Schuster, $28 (448p) ISBN 978-1-982111-29-8

Wilson, who teaches climate-themed writing and environmental justice at Queens College, debuts with a tour de force on the steep costs of living in a world that prioritizes personal comfort. He focuses on the coolant Freon and related chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) that have wrought havoc on the ozone layer, arguing that though air conditioning is seen as a necessity, it hasn’t improved people’s quality of life. He points out that low-income people, “especially those of color,” are less likely to have access to air conditioning but are more affected by the environmental consequences of climate change (Black women, he writes, “experience the highest rate of complications during pregnancy due to heat and pollution”). Controlling and destroying refrigerants is the best path forward to mitigate climate change, he writes, and his message is as urgent as it is idealistic: he urges readers “to unravel the political, economic, and cultural structures that produce our desires for narrow, individualized, personal comfort, to shift the narratives that put the responsibility on individual will instead of collective community” in the hopes that they’ll consider the implications of such everyday decisions as switching on an AC unit. Wilson’s impressive take offers climate-minded readers much to consider. (July)