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
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
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
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
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
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.