Darby Lee Patterson
Hot enough for you? If you answered "Yup" then get ready to relocate because if you live in a "temperate zone" you might be waving goodbye to predictable seasons that brought both physical and emotional comfort. This week's weather forecast is all about heat that, in some places, is downright dangerous and, in others, a harbinger of what's to come. And for those of you who were with me through our evacuation from last year's Caldor Fire – with the heat and wind as it is today, I just don't want to relive that memory. So, instead, I'm looking at the big, shared picture.
Much of California, for example, will be well over 100 degrees for several days. So, while I'm at it, let me hit you with a hail storm (now a rarity in much of the US) of weather news. According to our trusted National Weather Service, heat kills more Americans than any other weather condition. Hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, and blizzards? Merely annoying compared to the power of the sun. Experts say this is a global issue encompassing humanity with a new reality – even climate change deniers are taking cold showers together.
But before I spill my negatives about our future, I want to share some lighthearted news: A man from Nebraska just made a new Guinness World Record for paddling a hollowed-out 846 lb pumpkin boat down 38 miles of the Missouri River to celebrate his 60th birthday. He raised the pumpkin himself. How cool is that? When you feel the need for a break from my heat-related regrets – chill out with the cool quips in the hot red box at the left.
Climate scientists say that Earthlings have actually been experiencing the slow warming of our planet since the late1800s due to our love affair with greenhouse gasses from conveniences we treasure. Consequently, summer started in California in about April and threatens to remain with us until November. We are not alone. Throughout the United States, heat and drought deliver a mixed bag of consequences in ways we seldom think about. For example, beef prices are down because ranchers have to slaughter younger cattle. They can't get sufficient grains and hay (both need vast amounts of water) to sustain their livestock. Long-term consequences of this pattern are dire for farming and ranching.
New rules are being written throughout the country to address worker safety in these record hot spells - think laborers in fields, construction workers, road builders, foresters, first responders, mail carriers, … anyone doing business without air conditioning (that's further polluting the environment).
I'm thinking about this because I live in California – a state long known for its pleasant sunny climate, colorful social movements, and political leaders with monikers like Governor Moonbeam. I survived a couple of years in high desert Palm Springs – a collection of sand dunes turned-ritzy-Paradise through mega irrigation, opulent homes for aging movie stars, and hope for failed starlets seeking wealthy mates. The day I escaped the desert, the temperature in my truck was 120 degrees, and I cooked an egg on the hood before heading out. I moved to Sacramento to work as a journalist in the capital city that featured moderate winters and bearable summers. Twenty years later, summers in the Sacramento valley regularly topped 100. We packed up the dogs, tossed the sunscreen, and fled to the mountains. At 4000 foot elevation, the winters bring snow (I can take that – for heaven's sake, I'm from Minnesota – bring it on!). When we first got here, many homes in our forested community didn't even have air conditioning – it wasn't yet needed.
This now, we're looking at dangerously high temperatures. And we must, to survive, continue running those air conditioners – two-sided coins that offer both short-term safety and the long-term threat of adding pollution to already poisoned air. Here on our mountain, we anticipate at least a week of being uncomfortable outdoors – but at valley level, the heat threatens (and claims) lives.
This morning we sat at our breakfast table, looking out at towering cedars that shelter us from the penetrating heat of the sun. I remarked to my husband that we (as elders) are living through a crisis that we'll not see resolved in our lifetime. It began well before we were born and will tragically last long after we're gone. It will be for our grandchildren and great-grandchildren to transition Planet Earth to a new way of living - sending technologies that were once beacons of progress into the archives of unintended consequences.
Thanks for spending your time with me! And double gratitude for your thoughts and reactions. I love to hear from you - with readers around the world, I always learn from your perspective - culture, language, environment - they shape us differently. You teach me! Reach me here - email@example.com
This week's Indie Author offer - They're calling it "Cozy Mysteries," but due to the temperature, I'm renaming to "Cool Summer Reads!" GET YOURS HERE!
GENEROUS readers able to support my project : Bronze Tribute to Heroes of the Caldor Fire - Thank You.