Will we ever have fun in the sun again, or will we just learn to live with the hellish heat?
environment | politics | opinion | climate change
Back in the olden days, summer used to be fun. Hanging out with your friends until late into the night because it was still light outside, eating at least three Mr Whippy ice-creams a day, watching your dad suddenly become the family chef because you had a barbecue every evening - summer meant an increase in meat consumption and sugar where I came from! But now, in the year 2022, when you go outside in summer, you have the overwhelming feeling that you are quite literally going to catch on fire. It is so hot. Like an oven. Like hell. Actual hell.
Fires are currently burning across Europe; in France, Spain, Portugal, Germany, the UK, Croatia, Greece and Italy. The entire continent is experiencing extreme heat, causing drought, water shortages and untold damage to fragile and essential ecosystems. And this, the experts warn us, is the mild end of what it WILL be like in the years to come. And this is just Europe. The second smallest continent on Earth. North Africa and the Middle East have seen fires and deadly dust storms, Asia has been experiencing extreme heat followed by deadly floods. Pakistan alone has received more than 60% of its normal monsoon rainfall in just three weeks, and an estimated 1,200 people have died as torrential rains continue to batter the country.
People have lost their homes, their crops, their livelihoods, in what can only be described as The Summer of Actual Hell. Now, the last few years haven't been easy for the people of planet Earth; just as we were starting to come out of Covid, into a world where we would be living with it, side-by-side, like in that cheap youth hostel you stayed in when you were backpacking around Europe trying to find yourself, and you instead found yourself next to some unwashed boy from France who thought that the smell of sour cheese mixed with garlic was a guaranteed way to get girls. Note: It is not. So, while we're trying to navigate this new world, with Covid following us around (much like the French boy) and trying not to breathe in too deeply lest we inhale any Omicron, the climate crisis has suddenly gone up a notch and now the planet is trying to destroy us by hurling fireballs in our direction.
On top of the Earth quite literally trying to destroy humanity, is the ongoing and seemingly never-ending war in Ukraine. If only we wise and very intelligent homo sapiens had not put all of our oil and gas eggs in one Putin-shaped basket, we might not be in such a mess right now. If only Russia didn't have a history of "electing" deranged authoritarian despots, we might not be on the verge of freezing to death in winter because there will be no gas to heat our homes, and even if there is, we won't be able to afford it because bread will cost €10 (not quite, but close) and we'll have to choose between heating and eating.
Today, here in Berlin, the temperature is a "mild" 32 degrees. I can't remenber a time when I wasn't drenched in sweat. There is no air conditioning in Germany, because in the past, summer temperatures were very tolerable and simply opening the windows provided enough of a cool breeze - even prompting some Germans to put on a scarf for fear of catching a cold (it's a German obsession, believe me!). So, as we sit in our offices, classrooms, home offices and public transport, slowly melting into liquid pools of sweaty flesh, we should look back fondly on those simpler times, back when an open flame didn't automatically mean that an area the size of Belgium would be burnt to the ground, back when Mr Whippy was an affordable treat, back when there was access to drinking water and our parks didn't resemble the Gobi Desert, and be thankful that we had those mild summers, because future generations will not have such fond memories.