Global warming is killing people in Canada and the U.S. as I write this.

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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  1. says

    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.

    Um, speaking as someone who has lived in Canada all their life, I have NO idea where you’re getting this. Canada has both cold winters and hottish summers, and the fact that we have a lot of water, in general, means that the summers are also humid which causes a lot of issues. LOTS of people in Canada have air conditioning, and we’ve needed it for a long, long time.

  2. says

    FYI: In addition to confirming that there are important parts of Canada affected by the current heat wave with relatively few buildings having air conditioning BUT there are lots of parts of Canada where AC is the norm (thanks, Verbose Stoic), I’ll also point out that you reported a temp for “Litton”. This is a misspelling of the town of “Lytton” in British Columbia’s upper Fraser Valley (or lower Fraser Canyon, if you prefer).

    Most people won’t care about the i/y transposition, but as long as I was commenting, i thought I would mention it.

  3. says

    There’s a push to make ecocide a crime on par with war crimes. The question is, will the ICC have the spine or the teeth to punish countries and corporations?

  4. says

    My bad on the AC. During most of my life in the Northeastern US I didn’t have AC in my home, or I had a window unit I could use sometimes in dire circumstances. I had heard someone say it was uncommon in Canada, and it made sense with my experience further south on the continent. I’ll correct that.

    Also thanks for the spelling correction. Not sure why I thought it was Litton >.<

  5. says

    AD (#4) –

    Don’t worry, we understand the Merritt (43C yesterday) of your writing.

    There’s a town near the Arctic Circle that I once suffered six months in, from June to December. The “warmest” day I saw (early 1990s) was 23-25C. Yesterday, it was nearly 40C.

  6. StonedRanger says

    Portland reported 116 yesterday. It was 118F (47.77C) at my house. The only AC we have is in the bedroom and thank god for that. I wish our former president could be brought here and have to live without AC and see how long it takes for that orange faced POS to realize he was wrong about global warming. Of course, he is too stupid to even realize when he is/was wrong and when he does realize it, he ignores it anyway.

  7. StevoR says

    Just horrific.

    Grimly interetsing and putting the sclae of this heat into persepctive here tis this :

    Online article which notes :

    By comparison, 47.9C is hotter than any temperature ever recorded in Alice Springs (45.7C) or the notoriously hot US desert city of Las Vegas (47.2C).

    Lytton is about 100 kilometres from the Whistler Blackcomb ski resort and is at a latitude of 50 degrees north — closer to the North Pole than the Equator.

  8. StevoR says

    @ ^ Meant to add this much sooner than now sorry but still FWIW & for those who may not already know of Alice Springs :

    is a town in the centre – the red heart – of Australia surrounded by desert and with a usually dry river not usually flowing through it.

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