In theory, we all know that humanity is part of the Earth’s ecosystem. When we impact the system, we impact ourselves. But knowing is one thing, feeling it is another. Sure, we know the global system of which we are part is ever hotter. But lately a lot of Americans, including myself, have gotten a real feel for it.
Over the last several days, the earth has suffered the hottest days in recorded history. On July 3rd, we set a record of 17.01°C, or 62.62°F. That was calculated by taking into account the average temperatures of the land, the oceans, the poles, and the night and day cycles.
But the record didn’t last. On July 4th, there was a new record, 17.18°C this time.
And then on July 6th, yet another record: this time 17.23°C.
What makes this all more remarkable, and more alarming, is that Antarctica is in the heart of its winter season. It should be helping to keep things cooler. Well, to be fair, it probably is. But it’s not enough to overcome the stress that we’re putting on the system.
My Very Hot Home
Coincidentally, our central air conditioning pooped out on July 1st. It was the start of a weekend and, when we called the air conditioner repair people, they gave us a number that was only for “emergencies.” What is an emergency, however? They didn’t define the term.
I thought maybe emergencies were for when there’s a bedridden elderly person in an AC-less house. So, we didn’t call. Saturday night was a bit rough sleeping in a 90°F bedroom, but we managed. On Sunday, I toughed it out at home while C went to work. It reached 91°F in the house with a “feels like” index of 100+ outside. Hot enough that it felt as if the air were closing in, as if I could somehow see the heat itself in a darkened room. And not a “dry heat,” of course. We live in a rainforest (without much rain, lately). Such is Florida.
Sunday night was tougher than Saturday night. The heat was more pervasive. All the objects in the house were hot as well. There was no more residual coolness in the furniture. The bed itself was hot. Thermodynamics, baby.
We called the air conditioning folks on Monday. The woman on the phone half scolded and half laughed. “When your AC goes off on a hot Florida summer day, it’s an emergency no matter who you are,” she said. We didn’t argue. A guy came, replaced a capacitor, and had the AC fixed in about 10 minutes.
Just in time. It was Monday, the hottest day in recorded history (at the time).
To Concentrate the Mind
We are in a system that is getting hotter by the year and, lately, by the day. The most recent record won’t hold, not unless there’s a nuclear war or supervolcano explosion or some other disaster that would be worse than the global warming itself.
It takes a lot for us humans to give up our self-centered foolishness, to stop our inane but often deadly chimp-like bickering among ourselves. It takes a lot to pull us together into a single human tribe. A deadly pandemic certainly couldn’t do it. Indeed, in the U.S., it only intensified our hominid nescience.
But if we could bring all of humanity together into an AC-less Florida amid high humidity and feels-like temperatures of 107°F and keep everyone here until we collectively figured out how to properly address global warming, maybe we’d finally get ‘er done. No more excuses or half measures or procrastination.
Maybe we would finally become avid and careful systems thinkers. Our minds would be concentrated as our bodies sweltered. We would realize that there’s no easy answer to solving the issue of global warming. It’s a system, after all. But we’d soon come up with compromises on a solution that would require sacrifice from everyone, a solution that would please no one but would stand the best chance of getting something real done.
At least, that’s the pipedream. The fevered dream of a hot man lying on a hot sofa under a blurred fan blowing hot air. A man who knows with a palpable certainty that it could be even worse. No, that it will be even worse. And that it is already worse for millions if not billions of people living with far few cooling resources than we have.
The AC is back on for now and for us.
But the memory of just a couple of days without AC will live on a while. It’s just a prelude. And a reminder that when you punch the planet, the planet punches back.