Updated 16 January 2014

100 degrees

Fifty degrees in Australia and minus 50 in the US. At least in SA we only have to cope with Sanral and Nkandla, says Susan Erasmus.


In parts of Australia it’s 50 degrees Celsius and climbing. And in parts of the US, it feels like minus 50 degrees.

That’s a full 100 degrees between the hottest and the coldest. Just think about it – at naught degrees, water freezes  and at 100 degrees it boils.

In parts of the US and Canada a so-called polar vortex has broken low-temperature records from Minnesota to the US Midwest to San Francisco. In Chicago it was minus 29 degrees Celsius and in Toronto it reached minus 37 degrees.

Just think for a moment of the thousands of stranded airline passengers, the kids who can’t go to school, trains stuck on railway tracks and people huddling in their homes with no power. Not to speak of livestock and wild animals that are dying in their thousands.

And in Brazil and Australia, the heat is on. On the northwest coast of Australia, temperatures are approaching 50 degrees, 100 000 bats have dropped dead from the heat, kangaroos are collapsing and plants in gardens are turning brown despite being watered. Not to speak of stranded motorists whose tyres have melted.

All calm in sunny SA

In SA our weather is reasonably temperate and there are no volcanoes as we are miles from tectonic plate edges. It’s probably our reward for having to put up with e-tolls and other robberies – state-sanctioned or not.

The earth vs. humans

Is our planet turning on us? It’s worth asking. Between earthquakes and hurricanes, heat waves, volcanoes and ice storms, we could be getting the idea that the planet is trying to shake us off, a bit like a dog trying to get rid of an irksome flea. And it has every right to.

Because contrary what many people might think, the world was not exclusively created for us and our use. In the bigger scheme of things we were a very late and inconvenient arrival.

Initially it is presumed the world proffered little protection – hominids 500 000 years ago are thought to have lived mostly out in the open before they started to build rudimentary shelters. There simply weren’t enough caves to go around.

The price of technology

This meant that the human habitat was limited to regions where the climate was temperate. This is no longer the case. People now live in areas with extreme climates, and they are relying on technology to make this possible. And raiding natural resources mercilessly to keep this technology going.

Now we have air conditioning, central heating, advanced building materials and heaters, we can survive pretty much anywhere.

Just an aside – Emu Creek resident, Gian Tate, said that she and her husband relied on two fans to keep them cool, as it was too expensive to turn on the air conditioner because the fuel for the generator was costly. A temperature of 50 degrees was measured outside her home. I had to read this twice – why have an air conditioner if you’re not going to turn it on when it hits 50 degrees outside? At what temperature would you consider turning it on? Sixty degrees? A hundred? I don’t get it.

 From Emu Creek back to the earth. We have wreaked havoc on our planet, caused massive destruction and extinctions, polluted our environment possibly beyond repair – and now the earth is fighting back. Or is it? Could we possibly just be caught up in planetary processes that started millions of years ago, and will still be carrying long after we have disappeared?

It really is nothing personal

 Weather reporters and news readers assume the same kind of expressions when breaking news about bad weather as announcers do when reporting a particularly vicious murder or outrage.

Guys, it’s nothing personal. We are temporary guests on earth and more than once we came pretty close to extinction. There was a time after a series of cataclysms when it was thought that there were fewer than two thousand people on the planet. One more  volcano and it could easily have been the end of us. Given the precariousness of our planet and our propensity for homicide and destruction of our resources, we could easily get there again.

A heat wave and a polar vortex are not hate campaigns. They could possibly just be gentle messages that we and our technology have limitations, and we shouldn’t forget that. Non-paying guests shouldn’t be arrogant. Especially if they have emptied the fridge.

I will end with this reminder by Will Durant, American historian and philosopher: “Civilization exists by geologic consent, subject to change without notice.”

Susan Erasmus is a freelance writer for Health24.




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