If You Can't Stand the Heat
The world sizzles
There is the old saying, “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.” But what if we’re all trapped in the kitchen, and there is no one who can stand the heat?
In Texas, we like to pride ourselves on standing the heat — the literal kind, and the metaphorical. We like to think we are tough, hard workers, ones not to complain. But stoicism in the face of a climate catastrophe isn’t courage — it’s foolishness.
Needless to say, it’s hot in Texas — after all, it’s the dog days of July. But there is heat, and then there is HEAT. And we are experiencing the latter, and a lot more of it.
Of course, there are places that aren’t used to being hot. Take the British Isles, which have inspired poets for centuries with their cool, foggy climes. The United Kingdom is setting record-high temperatures this week, hitting the triple digits. That’s bloody hot.
The heat is even higher — and more deadly — in the Iberian Peninsula. In fact, much of Europe is smoldering. And Central Asia. And the Arctic. And the North American continent.
The world is heating up — not in the future, not hypothetically, but now. When you break records every few years, you don’t need a doctorate in environmental sciences to recognize that what was once normal no longer is. There is no baseline. We are surfing on a chaotic wave of unpredictability — except we know which way the trendlines are going.
All this has me hot, very hot.
That’s because in the face of this extremely deadly heat, we need bold action and leadership. We’ve needed it for years, actually decades. The science has been clear. But what we have gotten is just the opposite. And recent examples are all the more infuriating — from the Supreme Court to Joe Manchin to essentially the entire Republican Party.
I am lucky. I have the privilege of living with air conditioning. I’m not working the fields or paving a road. But I know those jobs, and others like them. And I am thinking of all those who have to do them. There are millions who can’t afford to cool their house. There are people living all over the world who are threatened, in their health and livelihoods, by the changing climate. We all are, because we are all interconnected. But some will bear a much greater burden than others. And they tend to be the ones who have done the least to put us where we are.
There are the young, who will know only a world that is rapidly becoming inhospitable to human life. This will further exacerbate the inequities and injustices that pervade our global society.
My hope is that this reality is so stark that it will finally provoke the reaction we have needed for so long. Out of greater crisis can arise a more determined and sustained movement for change. We can take the anger and heat we are feeling, and, like an engine, convert the energy into action powering us forward into a sustainable future.
There is a new threat to our global climate for which we must be vigilant: cynicism and defeatism. We could have done a lot more, a lot earlier. That is true. But to use that as an excuse to give up now, to say that whatever further damage occurs is inevitable, is a dereliction of our duty to the planet and to future generations. We don’t know what innovations may be in store, what we can help fix through new ideas and action.
We can’t afford to put our heads in the sand. It’s likely too hot there anyway.