I love questions like this because they reveal interesting things about culture, and I am endlessly fascinated by foodways and food cultures.
I don't know that I'd say refrigeration is "part of the problem." It certainly was a tool that made living in dense urban environments (which is, after all, more energy efficient) a lot more feasible. It takes land and space to produce and keep food safely for year-round eating, and "high-rise" apartment dwellers--present since at least the turn of the last century--don't have such options.
For instance, in old-time agricultural communities, people did have refrigeration--after a fashion--in the form of the root cellar. Below the house, and below the ground, in the dark, apples, cabbages, roots and tubers lasted the winter. More fragile stuff was canned and kept safely in the pantry. Meats were dry-cured and/or smoked. Eggs are perfectly safe at room temperature for days--certainly they'd be eaten long before going bad. Dairy was produced and consumed daily, or made into fermented products as you've suggested. Many things were likely consumed about as fast as they were produced, with little going to waste. Whatever waste there was went to the pigs and chickens to be recycled back into more food.
Then there was the icebox. If you've ever seen one, you know they weren't keeping much in there...too small.
Refrigeration certainly encourages waste these days (I call the "crisper" drawer in my fridge the "rotter,"), and the adoption of convenience foods, like prepared condiments, pre-made meals, etc.
But since going more or less paleo, I have found my need for fridge space dwindling. I almost always have a whole shelf free. But instead of a root cellar and canning, I do have a small chest deep freeze where my non-seasonal produce and extra meat lives. Thanks to that deep freeze, I think these days I could probably get by on a large dorm-sized fridge. (I am single, though, with no roommates.)