You Are Not a Cactus

You Are Not a Cactus

Recently there was a column in The Washington Post recommending that we all start building up our heat tolerance.

Yeah, I’ll bet.

I’m not sure building up a little heat tolerance is going to help us, not when saguaro cactuses are falling over dead in the Arizona desert. They’ve had thousands of years to adapt.

We haven’t.

In other news, the entire country of Iran has shut down due to “unprecedented heat.” We’re talking about people who are used to extreme temperatures. Their power grid can’t handle the energy demand as everyone tries to stay cool. So I wonder what we can possibly do to adapt to the heat when desert dwellers can’t.

Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal runs a column describing “obsession with climate change” as a mental disorder.

We knew the gaslighting would ramp up as climate change became impossible to ignore, and it has.

It’s right on time.

It feels like maybe the point of articles like this aren’t to build up a tolerance to heat, but to build up a tolerance for something else — to prepare our minds for what’s coming, and to condition us to (yet again) blame people for their own deaths.

We’ve been here before.

Scientists will tell you, the human body can’t tolerate temperatures above 108F degrees. Your proteins begin to denature. You start to unravel. People have already been dying from heat deaths at record numbers this summer, which is turning out to be not only the hottest one in recorded history but also the one where public officials have started to drop any pretense of staying under 2C degrees of warming.

We’re basically being told to deal with it.

Of course, not even the doctors quoted in the WaPo piece recommend trying to build up heat tolerance without “breaks” where you go inside for air conditioning. So basically, what they’re saying is that it’s getting so hot that humans will have to increase their heat tolerance just to shuffle between air-conditioned buildings.

If that's not enough, a major study by climate scientists found that a blackout during a heatwave would hospitalize half the population of Phoenix, Arizona. Blackouts have gone up 150 percent over the last several years, caused by overuse of the grid during heat waves. Millions of Americans are relying on artificial climate control to stay alive.

They don’t even know it.

We’re being led to believe that somehow we can adjust to this, that somehow the fittest will survive. Only the weakest, those unable to “build up heat tolerance” will perish.

It’s a lie.

This is climate eugenics at work, wrapped up in wellness advice that appears innocuous on the surface. The media has started telling us we’re on our own. The government might tout solutions like increasing tree coverage and creating cooling spaces. They might promise to provide us with air conditioners. They might talk about strengthening the grid. Yes, they should be doing all of that.

There’s a number of ways our institutions could help us adapt to extreme heat, but they’re dragging their feet as excess deaths from heat rise. Of course, I have to play my pessimism tune here. I have to point out that if they were going to do that…

They would have.

This year’s inferno comes at zero surprise to some of us. We’ve been trying to warn the world for years, even decades. Our leaders were told to anticipate these temperatures.

They were told to strengthen their grids. They were told to create cooling centers. They were told to pass building codes to encourage or even require more efficient buildings.

They didn’t.

In fact, geologists like John Wesley Powell argued against overdeveloping the west and southwest to begin with.

Nobody listened.

Now here we are, completely unprepared as a society for the present reality, watching ERs fill up with burn victims who’ve simply fallen or passed out on the sidewalk. These problems are extending well beyond the west. Soon enough, they’re going to be everyone’s problems. Everyone will have to deal with excessive heat, and not everyone is going to be able to increase their heat tolerance.

Not everyone is going to have central air.

You could even say it’s dangerous and misleading to promote heat tolerance as a climate solution. It’s not a solution at all.

I don’t know who needs to hear this, but…

You are not a cactus.

You might be able to increase your body’s tolerance for heat under certain conditions, but it’s not going to save anyone from temperatures of 110F degrees and above. New research even shows that the human body breaks down at a wet bulb temperature of 87F.

That’s 8 degrees less than previously assumed. Essentially, we’re even less resilient than we thought as a species.

We’re more vulnerable, not less.

Also, you can’t air condition crops. If a cactus falls over dead after a month of extreme temperatures, imagine what wheat does.

Imagine what corn and soybeans do.

Imagine what cows do.

Nobody should be expecting anyone to deal with heat like this. Frankly, we should be having serious conversations about moving people out of areas where they would die almost immediately if the grid broke down. And yet, that’s not a part of the dialogue.

There’s solutions, but none of them are individual. They require immediate action — not more denial and wishful thinking, not more judgmental optimism. We should be moving our agriculture to drought-resistant crops, even if we need some bioengineering. We should be shifting to plants that already naturally resist drought.

We should be renovating homes and buildings for better air flow — something that was recommended for another problem we had. And if you think that’s “too expensive” consider the cost of shutting down entire countries or killing off more essential workers.

Instead, we seem to have blown right past the part where the affluent admit their failures and acknowledge the world they’ve created. They’re clearly not interested in helping. They’re interested in blaming our deaths on “lack of heat tolerance.”

It’s a useful, malicious excuse.

Five years ago, you were in denial if you didn’t believe humans were driving global warming. Now you’re in denial if you think we’re going to stop it with wind turbines and solar panels. We’re not.

It’s here.

We’re now officially in the business of trying to survive a 2C degree world. Once again, few want to acknowledge the truth.

Personalized climate solutions aren’t going to help anyone but the rich. They are, in themselves, a form of denial. It borders on lunacy. The more we rely on things like air conditioning and neck fans, the worse we’re going to make things. One day, air conditioning won’t be there — and the consequences will be devastating.

It’s hard to believe we’ve already reached this point. We’re one blackout away from a mass casualty heat wave.

An air conditioner shouldn’t be the only thing standing between us and death, but millions are already living under those conditions. That number is only going to get bigger.

I’ll say it one more time.

You are not a cactus.

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