Thinking About Heat Waves

I grew up without air conditioning in a small town outside of Houston. We finally got a couple of window units when I was 13, after my great-uncle died and left us a little money.

That made it easier to sleep in the summer, but I still spent a lot of my time in the room we called the den, which wasn’t air-conditioned, sitting in a large easy chair with a fan blowing directly on me. It was my favorite place to read and I read a lot.

Of course, we also had an attic fan, which circulated the air through a lot of the house. I’ll also point out that you don’t move much when you read and that we had plenty of water. A quick shower, a cold drink, and staying out of the sun will keep you going for a long time on a really hot day.

I could say this was all before climate change, but, of course, the climate change we’re experiencing now goes back to the industrial revolution. But while summers in the area where Houston is now have been hot and humid for millennia – long before European colonization – we are now reaching a point where they’ll get just enough worse to make life much harder for everyone.

In our modern world, air conditioning is a necessity. Houston may have become a large city before air conditioning was universal – ports and oil will do that – but it didn’t become the headquarters of so many major corporations until that happened.

Still, it’s useful to point out that in places that have always had hot, humid summers, people figured out how to survive and thrive before air conditioning. Some of that came from building with the weather in mind, some from knowing it was going to happen and being prepared.

Those who live in places that get serious winter will tell you the same thing about winter.

There is a point where those things don’t do enough. We’re going to get heat waves that kill people who do everything right.

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