Friday, July 21, 2006

Let them have fans

So far, nine people have died this year in France from the heat. Last year, the death toll was something like 1,500, but those were largely in August and we're not there yet. I think it will ultimately be lower this year though. There is an ad campaign trying to get people to check in on their elderly neighbors and the hospitals have made some needed improvements. People seem to be more mobilized this time. Last year, they got suckerpunched by the hottest year on record. But, then again, this year is hotter.

Many European countries have little to no air conditioning. Those of us who are younger can handle it; we just go walking or visit a place that is air conditioned, such as the cinema. It's no wonder that you see people lounging in cafes for hours on end here sipping drinks and fanning themselves lazily. But, for the elderly and the infirm, the rising temperatures are a serious problem.

And one that does not seem to be going away any time soon. I've linked to a number of climate scientists here, and although I cannot claim any expert knowledge on global warming, or what it will mean, I trust them that it is indeed taking place. But, more importantly, I get the distinct impression that, even if the world ends the production of greenhouse gases tomorrow, which won't happen, the planet is not going to cool down any time soon.

So, as much as I think government projects tend to be doomed to failure, I think that in this case European governments need to undertake a massive project to supply their elderly citizens with air conditioning units, or just electric fans. Since Claire and I found a ventilateur here for about 20 euro, I suspect the French government could get them in bulk for half that, if not less. In fact, I'd guess that these little fan units could be produced for about 5 euro a piece. They fit on a nightstand, and if they were provided to everyone who was over retirement age, this would still be a workable project, and would prevent a great number of unnecessary deaths. It might well lead to bureaucracy, snafus, and the usual government nonsense, but it's also a justifiable goal, and worth pursuing.

The point is that the ridiculous argument over whether or not there is global warming is becoming increasingly stupid. Call it whatever you want, hell, call it an 'act of God' if that makes you happy, but each year is hotter than the last, and we're going to have to start figuring out how to live in a different and plus chaud world. And, as much as most of us tend towards moderation and measured responses to problems, we may well have to put into place rather radical measures, such as mass fan distributions, or a ten-year plan to phase out fossil fuels altogether. Because this is clearly going to get worse before it gets better, and as much as humans want things to stay the same, they don't, and they're not.

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