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I was out for a walk the other day and I was struck by an odd thing. It was a glorious day - as good as a day can get, and very probably the last of its type that we shall see formany a long wintry month around here - and yet almost every car that passed had its windows up.
All these drivers had adjusted their temperature controls to create a climate inside their sealedvehicles that was identical to the climate already existing in the larger world outside, and it occurred to me that where fresh air is concerned Americans have rather lost their minds, or sense ofproportion, or something.
Oh, occasionally they will go out for the novel experience of being out of doors - they will go on a picnic, say, or for a day at the beach or to a big amusement park - but theseare exceptional events. By and large most Americans have grown so reflexively habituated to the idea of passing the bulk of their lives in a series of climate-controlled environments that thepossibility of an alternative no longer occurs to them.
So they shop in enclosed malls, and drive to those malls with the car windows up and the air-conditioning on, even when the weather is flawless, as itwas on this day. They work in offices where they could not open the windows even if they wanted to - not, of course, that anyone would want to. When they go on holiday, it is often in an outsizedmotor-home that allows them to experience the great outdoors without actually exposing themselves to it. Increasingly, when they go to a sporting event it will be in an indoor stadium. Walk through almostany American neighbourhood now in summer and you won't see children on bikes or playing ball, for they are all inside. All you will hear is the uniform hum of air-conditioning units.
Cities across thenation have taken to building what are called skywalks - enclosed pedestrian flyovers, climate-controlled of course - connecting all the buildings in their centres.
Now it is possible to walk for...
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