Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Fried Eggs and Sidewalks

Tomorrow is the 4th of July, a national holiday for Americans, and we're going into this Independence Day celebration in the middle of a brutal heat wave.  It seems the only part of the country that's been spared is the Pacific Northwest.  A crazy bad storm called a "derecho" cut a destructive swathe through the Mid-Atlantic states from Ohio through W. Virginia, Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia.  Two million hardy souls are still without electrical power when the air temperatures are topping out well above 100 degrees F.  That must be hell on earth right now.

Leonardo da Vinci imagined a flying machine long before anyone thought it possible.  The Declaration of Independence was debated and discussed and argued during a blistering hot summer in Philadelphia in 1776.  How did those fine gentlemen keep cool in their waistcoats and wigs?  Maybe they didn't wear the wigs.  I bet they could not have imagined the cooling power of air conditioning.  Or how humans would eventually affect the ecosystem on earth and its climate.  Back in 1776, the country felt immense, with more than enough room for everyone, and no skyscrapers and parking lots, sidewalks and interstates that absorbed the heat and kept it going through nights and days.

My grandmother used to say that it was so hot, you could fry an egg on the sidewalk.  This was back when 85 degrees F. was blistering.  In my lifetime, I do not remember such searing summers as we've had in the last 10 years.  My grandmother might say now that it was so hot, you could fry a hamburger on the sidewalk in two minutes.  The air does feel a lot like an oven.  Maybe she wouldn't even need a sidewalk, just the superheated air to roast a chicken.  Set it out in the sun to brown, baste it once in a while, and just let it roast on the porch.

Fortunately or unfortunately, Independence Day celebrations include lots of outdoor activities: parades and picnics, swimming, boating, and fireworks.  The deluge of rains that we had this past spring has guaranteed a bumper crop of mosquitoes, gnats, and other creepy-crawlies.  I've been seeing bees lately, too.  The perfect guests to join you for your picnic.  Unless...the heat keeps them all away.  I bet the predominant visual on TV news tomorrow evening will be people in pools, at the beach or running through fountains and open fire hydrants.  I'll be staying inside for most of the day, cool and comfortable with my AC running.

Photo: Nicholas Lisi/The Post-Standard
 Our country's Founding Fathers were courageous and determined.  Each one probably had personal reasons for being involved in the independence movement, but as a group they worked and did their best for the best interests of the colonies, soon to become the United States of America.  We like to think that they were all idealists, but there were important economic considerations that drove them to action.  The economic considerations just weren't about corporate profits vs.green energy or taxing the middle class which really hadn't formed yet.


I think the Founding Fathers might look at us today and wonder what had happened to our common sense (especially Ben Franklin).  How could there not be an effect to the ecosystem and climate from human activity?  Even my grandmother would agree that global warming is real.  Especially with the weather changes during the last 10 years.  What rules in Washington, D.C.?  Congress or Inertia?  Congress or corporations?  Scientists want to help. What would the Founding Fathers do?  And is it too late to stop the momentum of global warming?

I know what my grandmother would do.  Stay cool, everyone....

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