It’s August, traditionally the most oppressive month of the summer. Presumably that explains why in much of Europe the vacation (“holiday”) season is commonly associated with August – for example, ferragosto in Italy. In much of the United States (and Canada), Labor Day at the beginning of September has traditionally marked the end of the summer vacation season. In contrast, at least in the part of the United States where I now live, school starts next week, just barely even mid-August!
In the past, if I’ve looked forward to August at all, it was because it meant July was past and September was on its way. And the August heat would be balanced a bit by the perceptible daily reduction in daylight and the hope that autumn is actually around the corner. In parish life, I welcome the “return to normalcy” that traditionally accompanies the start of another school year. Even so, doing it in the August heat still seems somewhat counter-intuitive to me. But it may perhaps be somewhat symbolic of the increasingly hotter future that seems to lie in store for us, as summer becomes the new normal.
Wildfires, drought affecting some 64% of the continental U.S., and this summer’s record-shattering heat have highlighted what scientists have been warning us about for years. The climate is changing. The world is warning. And the results – rising sea levels, more severe storms, breadbaskets turning into dustbowls, excessive demands for electric power, and the energy-sapping, mind-numbing, killing heat - are disastrous.
To date, there is, of course, little evidence that our political leaders are at all willing to face up to all these dangers and actually attempt to do something serious, so as to leave future generations a world still worth living in. It is, one must concede, one of the inherent shortcomings of electoral democracy that it discourages leaders from planning for the future, rewarding instead sound-bite sloganeering that panders to people's present preferences.
There are undoubtedly powerful vested interests with a stake in maintaining our climate-destructive way of life. But we have all been accomplices in this process. Every time one turns up the air-conditioner or drives a car, one contributes to the climactic crisis we are already experiencing and which will progressively push the planet closer to an abyss. It remains to be seen whether we can actually come to grips with the causes and consequences of our warming world and change course sufficiently to bequeath a better world for future generations.
Meanwhile, summer gets longer, while the world gets hotter.