Privilege Blog

Looking Heat Square In The Face, Or, Saturday Morning at 9:56am

As you may have heard San Francisco broke heat records yesterday, with temperatures of 106℉. Down here on the Peninsula we went even higher, to 108, but I was still happy to be in my suburban house. At least here we can open the front door (the back door the bedroom doors the windows) and hose down the patio to cool ourselves as black slate steams.

And no, we don’t have air conditioning. Until this year it has never felt necessary. I’ve lived in this house since 1986, in the Bay Area off and on since 1960. While we’d always have 3 days here and there over 90℉, of a summer, this kind of heat is new to us.

Today they’re predicting we’ll be down to 103. Whoa.

So I guess we’ll get up and get out and go places with A/C. I’ve already rewatered the hydrangea I transplanted closer to the lawn. I wanted to consolidate the sprinklered areas of my back yard, but didn’t plan for this heat. Transplants wilt so easily. I’ve doused our new potted olive trees, lined up in front of our back windows to replace an iota of the shade we lost when our big tree fell down. I’ll leave a plate of water out for the butterflies. And off we go to the world of humans in 2017.

I know I’m nostalgic, yearning for the landscape and climate of my childhood, for burnished California hills and summers. And let’s be serious, it’s supposed to return to 75 here at end of the week, while the survivors of Hurricane Harvey have months if not years of struggle ahead. No sympathy required for me.

Better to make a plan. I can at least vow to do nothing going forward that would increase my use of fuels and power. No air conditioning, for example, unless I trade my old Rav4 in for an electric car. Better yet, a bicycle. I read an article recently reporting on California’s progress with sustainable power – excellent – but lack of progress on transportation emissions – problematic.

So maybe no air conditioning even if I do get electric wheels. Nothing like discomfort to gee up our activism.

Have a wonderful weekend. I do think it’s possible to look all this square in the face and still enjoy time with family, the quiet of a Saturday morning, the smell of crushed lavender from the bunches you gathered last year and tied with a raffia ribbon. Looking the other way never disappears anything.

All the best to you and yours.


45 Responses

  1. I’m sorry,but hope that you’ll find some shade and cooler places ,even a wafter (fan) can help :-)
    After almost three months of really hot weather non-stop,we have rain and 20°C ( less than 70F) today

  2. Happily fall is in the air. I remember childhood summer days riding to Coyote Point pool on our bikes. A fun way to cool down back then. Playing tennis, going to the beach, hanging out at someone’s house with a pool. Seems so long ago. Oh wait, it was.

  3. I have been so shocked that the temperatures in the San Francisco area have risen so high. I fear that it is a sign of things to come. And air-conditioning MAY become essential. If you had prolonged heart or were sensitive to heat (elderly, very young, sick, etc) the high heat can be dangerous. Please let us know as soon as it hits 75.

    Dallas is usually hotter than hell this time of year and we have had one of our coolest summers I can remember. I think it is all part of climate change.

    1. @Susan D., I too think it is all part of climate change. And yes, as I wrote in fact, I thought that I may need for the sake of health to put in A/C. But I might weep on the day.

  4. I’ve lived in Santa Clara valley for 35 years and don’t remember a summer with so many heat waves. Even Santa Cruz was 104 yesterday, so no relief there even if you can deal with the traffic to get to the beach.

    I have bird feeders and leave out two large water bowls for them. Wild turkeys visit us most days. If they run out seed or water they come knock on the back door with their beaks.

    It makes me sad to see the valley filling up with condos and apartment buildings instead of orchards and farms. We’re pushing out the wildlife. People ask if I own the turkeys. I tell them they own me–they were here long before our house was built.

    1. @Susan W H,
      The wild turkeys knock on your back door when they’re out of water?!? What a funny picture! My little dog would have a fit.]

      Stay cool. I’m also keeping activity levels low here in San Jose, trying to maintain my cool.

    2. @Susan W H, The image of turkeys knocking on your back door got a good laugh out of my husband and I. I know what you mean about pushing out the wildlife. We used to spot a raccoon or two on summer evenings, but I haven’t seen one in several years. The city is allowing good homes to be torn down and larger ones built almost to the edges of the property. Portland is losing its trees and green neighborhoods at an alarming rate. Like the wildlife, I won’t be able to live here much longer. I’m sure my 1952 bungalow will be leveled and another McMansion will be built in its place.

    3. @Susan W H, Those wild turkeys are awesome, are they not? I hope you are cooler today, we are up here, although the skies are still so smoky that it doesn’t yet feel like home again.

  5. Wow. Those are stifling temperatures. The only time I’ve experienced weather like that was in Australia in 2008… during the worst of my menopause symptoms too. Much to Hubby’s chagrin. Nothing like being stuck with a menopausal woman in the outback… or so I’ve been told:)

    1. @Andrea, Necessity:(. I hope we can as a nation at least come up with a hopeful strategy to address where we are in terms of emissions.

  6. I don’t know what year your RAV4 is, but you may never have to trade it in! I bought one the first year they came out (1996) and when my mom’s Chevy died in 2003, I gave it to her with 200k miles on it…14 years later she’s still driving it, it now has 300k miles on it and the only thing wrong with it are the seats are pretty worn out. 21 years old and even the paint still looks good. Best car ever.

    1. @MarlaD, Mine is a 2007 with 110K on it, and it’s an amazing car if not sexy at all;). At this point the only reason I’d get a new one is to do better on emissions. Which has become a very compelling reason. :(

  7. Thank you for the reminder to find joy in people, quiet beauty, and the magic of the natural environment – even as it changes. I too believe that your CA heat, the intensity of the storm and rain in Texas ( and I “only” live in Austin), and the cool day I experienced on this Labor Day escape to Chicago are our doing. Sometimes they feel like the coming-end-of-the-world. Lots of factors went into the fact that I don’t have children, but my sister didn’t have any either and my husband is an only child. So we are truly the end of the line. That would make my reckoning with what I think will be truly catastrophic changes very different from most folk who have a different stake in the future than I do. I try to remember that this world of which we are a part predates our existence and take (some) comfort. But it truly requires the Long View. In the meantime I try to be active and find joy in the present. And thank you for your blog. I’m a rare commenter but constant reader.

    1. @Kristin, Thank you so much for your constant reading. It means a lot. And I now try to hold a sense of what’s wrong and also what’s beautiful, at the same time. It seems that way I might make better choices.

  8. Hello Lisa, The temperatures here have been over 100 for the past weeks, but I still haven’t turned on my a/c. That is reserved for company or if I am not feeling well. Also, even if you get a/c, you don’t have to keep the whole house like a refrigerator, especially with the zoning types they have now.

    Just lately, huge rains have turned the temperature down to about 90, but that has just made everything damp and woken up the mosquitoes (it’s like one of those “be careful what you wish for” things)!

    1. @Parnassus, You have really become a citizen of the land you live in, to be able to survive those kinds of temperatures and resist your A/C. You do remind me, people lived in that kind of heat for ages and ages, and they didn’t just pack up their backs and move to better weather. Hmm. I wonder how one does get used to it.

  9. Here on the other side of the world we’re just coming into Spring but I’m already fearing another fire season ahead. It was cold as ever here (near Canberra, Australia) over the winter, but SO dry – our dam is as low as I’ve ever seen it. That means another anxious Summer watching for smoke from our rural property – or worse, waiting for an alert on my phone when we’re 30 minutes away at work in town.

    My childhood was in Adelaide, an even hotter part of Oz, where 45C (113f) was not at all uncommon. No air conditioning and very little insulation in my parents’ house – so we used the “Coolgardie safe” approach, lying at night under a soaking wet towel with a fan blowing. Surprisingly effective!

    Here it reaches 103f or so for a week or two over Summer – but it’s getting hotter and drier every year.

    I fear for my children – and I don’t even dare to imagine how it will be for theirs. How can we have not fixed this yet? How will they judge us for all the opportunities missed, once it is too late?

    1. @Elizabeth,

      waving from Canberra….

      it sounds counter-intuitive, but try running the fan so it blows OUT the window – can make a substantial difference.

      Yeah – looking forward to not having the heater on, but dreading summer – it’s been dry and there’s a decent fuel load for bushfires.

  10. If you do consider A/C, look at energy efficient, heat pumps. They can be set, on demand, to cool in the summer and provide heat in the winter. I have Fujitsu heat pumps as an alternative to my much less efficient, forced hot water heating system.

    100 degrees plus is oppressive, but as you say, not nearly as bad as the flooding in our southern states.

    1. @Susan, Yes, the southern states are hardest hit, for sure. If we do install central A/C we will look to make sure it’s as energy efficient as possible. I also have room for solar panels, that would face south, and remain hidden from sight. Something else we are considering.

  11. Right here with you in multiple ways. I already have a 2005 Prius that gets 50MPG, but my goal is buying in an area where I use a combination of public transport, walking, and delivery and let my car go, which will be an emotional experience because I love my car, which has less than 70K miles on it. Alternatively, I’ll choose an electric car, but I’d prefer no car and a rental for road trips. All my life I’ve tried to live a a small footprint life, first through my parent’s example—they set an amazing example—and then on my own. I chose small everything, nothing disposable, no plastic bags, but we are living in a climate changed world. It’s heartbreaking and frightening, particularly when our leadership, and I use that term loosely, is going backwards on reforms that should have occurred decades ago. My house host has AC but we are firm in our resolve not to use it. We close all the windows during the day to keep the cool in, and stay downstairs with an oscillating fan running in the smallest, coolest room. We open all the windows after the sun sets. At these temperatures, nothing really helps and I do worry for the homeless and the elderly.

    1. @Katherine C. James, You are doing a lot by way of your Prius, I have some ways to go to catch up to you. My family never thought about a small footprint, so it’s been work to figure it out. I really did believe that green technology would save us, and along came fracking, and green investments sank:(.

  12. Here in Portland, Oregon, we are experiencing the same extreme heat. We used to have one bad week each summer, but now we have about three. I broke down and had AC installed a few years ago, but I am obsessed with using it as little as possible. We put an industrial fan in the attic, and as soon as the outside temperature hits 73° I turn the AC off and open all of the windows. It doesn’t matter if it is 3:00 in the morning, I keep getting up and checking. The fan not only pulls the cool air in, it cools the attic off as well. In the morning I close everything up when the temperature hits 69°, and set the AC on 74°. Only another week and we should get some relief. As you said, we have nothing to complain about.

    1. @Teddi, I do something similar, but with much higher temps. Inasmuch as I keep all the windows open that are safe to keep open, at night, and when I wake up I open all the doors, and keep them open until it’s warmer outside than in. I find we are comfortable all day unless the temps go over 80. Which, of course, they have recently, way more often than before.

  13. OK. mea culpa. I have air conditioning down here in Los Angeles, But, I only turn it on if it’s really hot in the room I’m in. I don’t cool the whole house. Just the area I’m in. I will go out now and water some plants that I’m sure are suffering. I’m a native, I’m old and we’ve never had this kind of heat for so long. And I’ve never heard of heat that high in the bay area. We will survive.

    Of course, this is nothing compared to what people are suffering in

  14. I read all the comments from people who say that they never turn on their AC and try very hard not to use it. Here in Dallas, we are just the opposite. We try to never let or house get really hot—otherwise, it is almost impossible to cool it down on a very hot day. We leave our thermostat set on a particular number try for a constant temperature. And yes, the whole house because we live in the whole house. Now, at our farm, we set the upstairs guest rooms to a warmer temp unless we are going to have guests. For us, AC is not a luxury but a true necessity.

    1. @Susan D., That makes sense, and probably for your environment that’s the most energy efficient strategy. Essentially if human beings are going to live in Dallas in any kind of comfort, that’s what you’re going to have to do.

  15. I do think we’re going to have to go back to an older way of thinking about heat. I don’t know the Dallas statistics, but like I said above, I grew up in a house with no air conditioning in a place with Summers regularly in the 105-110f range. My mum still lives in that house, still with no air conditioner and still bloody hot – yes, it’s not comfortable, but it’s doable.

    At our place it’s not so bad but still regularly 90-95f inside – we are trying to fix that with better insulation and sensible use of deciduous trees, but again, even if we can’t, it’s manageable.

    The truth is that people have been living in hot houses until very recently, and we could too, really – I think we’ve got used to comfort and that’s fair enough – but can we really look our kids in their eyes and say we chose comfort over their entire future safety, security and prosperity?

    1. @Elizabeth, This is the question. We have expectations of how we live and how we work that require air conditioning. To take it away would require that many people work and live at a much slower pace. Is that the answer? Or is it possible to become wholly sustaining in our use of the power grid via wind and solar? We won’t know until we try, and to try we have to look at all of this directly and honest.y.

  16. I thought of you while viewing Reggie’s latest Instagram post, my gosh there they are taking the chill off the house by lighting their first fire of the season!

    Concerning to me here in our house is the sudden appearance of molds and mildew in places they’ve never shown up before. Does this explain our night coughs, eye irritations, 24/7 sniffles, and other trifling maladies/occasional lethargy?

    So, taking a defensive position against interior molds and mildew has nudged up to the top of my To Do list, starting with bottom dollar experiments such as the “Honeywell Table Air-Circulator Fan,” which has stopped the mildew from creeping across the closet ceiling!

    This got too long, sorry! Hope you and SH are enjoying the holiday together today!

    1. @Flo, Molds and mildew are pernicious! I am glad your fan is such a good first line of defense. And we had a nice time together but the heat was just awful, I’m not going to sugar coat it;).

  17. I really doubt that the cause of our climate change is from individuals using their air conditioning. That is a small drop in a very very large deep ocean. Use the a/c if you need to and don’t feel guilty about it. There are massive industries churning out pollution at a rate far greater than any private a/c unit ever could that need addressing by governments, most of whom are slow to act and afraid of losing they’re seats by making radical choices.

    1. @Tracey, I feel differently. First, I always feel like I need to accept my responsibility, tiny though it may be. In other words, if I am going to get A/C I am going to do it knowing that it is not good for the planet, rather than thinking it’s a drop in the bucket. Because almost everything is a drop in some bucket or other. This is just my personal framework, for better or worse. It doesn’t make me behave better than everyone, but it’s how I think.

      Second, as I understand it the worst offenders are actually cars. So in that way you are right, A/C isn’t the biggest problem, it’s my car. I need to do something about my car usage, and that’s going to be hard, so I’m working up to it. I like my creature comforts as much or more than anyone else:).

  18. I grew up in Texas, which is usually hotter than hell in the summer, and without air conditioning. Note that I don’t live there anymore, but still I tend to hate the heat. Knoxville summers are hotter than Hudson Valley Summers were, and those could get too hot for me. At least the heat was usually brief. I am grateful that we only got up to 100 a couple of days, and we are now unseasonably cool, in the 70s, which I think is the perfect summer temperature, but don’t tell my Tennessee friends that, half of them are complaining about the chill.

    As for A/C. I admit I love mine, and I try to balance it as best I can by being thoughtful in other ways, and I’d be happy to bike or walk everywhere but that isn’t the best idea here either. I console myself by thinking I rarely turn on the heat in Tennessee’s mostly mild winters.

  19. Gosh thats hot!
    Hydrangeas do love their water and when ours droop I know we need to give them a drink…
    We have had some hot days here and I am so grateful for the trees and the gentle breeze off the ocean and for a cool shower at the end of the day!

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