If you’re not living through it, no doubt you’ve been learning about it in the news: There’s a near-record-breaking heat wave now blanketing two-thirds of the United States, and people are suffering under it.
The current U.S. heat wave – affecting roughly 173 million people, according to NBC News — follows on the heals of a recent similar European heat wave. Clearly, climate change is the culprit, and science concurs. (See “Heat Waves in the Age of Climate Change: Longer, More Frequent and More Dangerous,” NYTimes, July 18, 2019.)
The question becomes, it seems to me, what can we as individuals do about it, besides wring our hands, wipe our brows, and fret?
Lately, as an exercise in compassion, I’ve been noting the weather forecasts in places that matter to me because I have loved ones there. The temperature in New York, for example, is inching toward a sweaty, sticky 100 degrees (F.) – the same temperature I experienced every day for two years in the Peace Corps in Gabon, where I lived on the Equator. I empathize.
And in the normally coolish mountain town of Taos, New Mexico, where a few of my friends have expressed reluctance to visit me in Mexico because they can’t tolerate heat, the temperature now stands at 15 degrees (F.) hotter than it is at the moment here in San Miguel de Allende. My Taos friends have not complained to me, but I know their endurance is surely being tested.
Here in San Miguel it’s the rainy season, so the temperature has been hovering in the low-to-mid 70s. Every day the sky is awash in puffy white-and-gray clouds that block the sun and conspire to cause sudden deluges when you least expect them. Especially on days when the forecast has lied, “mostly sunny,” and you didn’t bother to carry your umbrella.
During these inundations, streets become rushing rivers. Crossing at an intersection means trudging through ankle-deep dirty water. I make a point of helping little old Mexican ladies (littler and older than I) across the street, for fear they would otherwise be swept away.
These are surface issues, though, aren’t they? The deeper issue remains: What can we do about it, if anything? Is it too late? Weather – wherever we are – is a given, isn’t it? Shouldn’t we just leave it all to God? If not, does agonizing over changing weather patterns do a damn bit of good? Are we humans just plain doomed?
In this torrential rainy season, I’ve been thinking of my mother and how different we were. My mom, Lee, who was the farthest thing from a philosopher, used to trill, almost gaily, “Into each life some rain must fall!” — which was her version of, Oh, well, that’s life!
Despite her life’s many challenges (to put it mildly), she managed to maintain a mostly sunny outlook and disposition. She just rolled – or should I say floated? – with life’s punches.
I sometimes wonder what she would have made of the issue of climate change. I can see her tossing her pretty, manicured hands in the air and announcing confidently, “Somebody will come up with a solution, darlin’. You’ll see.”
I’ve never been as sanguine as she was. But it’s something to strive for. Or — maybe — it isn’t?