Heat exhaustion is a miserable experience. The worst I ever had it was when I was working on the Appalachian Trail in Connecticut. I think it started while I was asleep. I used a hammock instead of a tent, which generally kept me decently cool, but the temperature hadn’t dropped much that night, and was sweating when I woke. My head hurt, and I felt sluggish. I immediately drank some water and had some food/electrolytes. The problem is, when it’s hot and humid enough, your body loses the ability to effectively cool itself. I hiked another few miles, feeling worse by the step, while taking time to take care of myself. I took frequent breaks, I drank lots of water, I tried to cool myself off at the well-named Limestone Spring campsite – I did everything I could. At that point in time I was reasonably healthy. I was backpacking for 10 days out of every 14, I had my Wilderness First Responder certification, and I’d been managing my excessive sweatiness while camping for many years at that point. I knew how to take care of myself, and I did everything I could while still hiking my allotted section of the trail.
I got to Salisbury, CT in a bit of a haze. I knew I wasn’t well, and that I needed to cool off, so I went straight to an ice cream shop, and by the time I made it to the counter, the temperature change of going into the air conditioning hit me with a wave of nausea. I almost collapsed.
If you’ve never had heat exhaustion, it’s a bit like having the flu on the most miserably hot day you’ve ever experienced. Everything feels wrong, and if you’re lucky (assuming you’re alone like I was) you can tell your brain isn’t working right. It’s a horrible feeling, and looking back, it freaks me out a little that I was addled enough to think I should keep hiking.
Heat stroke, the next stage before death, is worse.
I got lucky. I was young, healthy, and accustomed to the activity I was undertaking. If I was in the same circumstances now, there’s a very real chance I wouldn’t have made it to that ice cream shop.
Death by heat is miserable. I don’t know any other way to put it, just from the tiny taste I got of the early stages.
As I write this, there’s a heat wave in large parts of the United States and Canada. It’s breaking temperature records and it is, without question, killing people right now.
Temperature extremes affect us differently depending on what we’re used to, up to a point. A normal day in Arizona can be a lethal heat wave in Canada. Yesterday Lytton, BC got up to 46.6°C/116°F. On top of the formerly unheard-of temperatures (I regret to say this won’t be the last time this happens),
virtually nobody in Canada has air conditioning. They’ve never needed it before. **Correction: Plenty of people in Canada do have air conditioning. It’s not as universal as it is in the parts of the US that get that more often, but it is around. That’s a thing I’m glad to have been wrong about. Sorry for the mistake!**
People died yesterday because of global warming.
They died because a few decades ago, a handful of multimillionaires learned that the source of their wealth was rapidly destabilizing the entire planet’s climate, and they responded the way capitalists always do – they spent some of their fortune to mislead people, to protect their income.
I want to be clear here – the folks who made that call at the top of every fossil fuel corporation are people who do not need more money. They could never have another cent come their way beyond the interest on their existing fortunes, and they would be able to live in luxury for the rest of their lives, as would their children and grandchildren. That’s true today, and it was true back then. These were not people faced with even the relative “poverty” of a middle-class lifestyle.
But it wasn’t enough. They decided that the people who died yesterday, and the people who are dying right now, and those who will die tomorrow, and every day for the rest of our lives and beyond, were worth less than turning obscene wealth into unimaginable wealth.
They committed murder for profit, and they knew they were doing it. That is no different from those who profit from endless war, and so spend money to ensure that the war never ends. It is, in my opinion, worse than the crimes of any paid assassin. In the end, it will result in more death than any terrorist attack in history.
This is not hyperbole.
This is the reality of climate change – it’s people being killed by the ruling class in the name of greed.
This is also why that ruling class cannot be allowed to keep their power. It’s why humanity cannot have a ruling class. We can’t survive that any longer. The millionaires oozing around the halls of power are no different than any rulers of any other society – they make decisions based on what they think benefits themselves, no matter the cost to everyone else.
Continuing to value private property and wealth over human life will drive humanity to extinction.
Here are some useful tips on surviving heat waves. As I say in my direct action post, education is important, and that includes knowing things for basic survival. One tip I’ll add for now, is that if you don’t have air conditioning, see if you can gain access to a store, mall, or some other public space that does have it. While it’s useful to acclimatize yourself to heat, when you’re getting to extreme temperatures, cooling down periodically makes a big difference – it allows your body to rest and recover. Take care of yourselves, and take care of each other.
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