Once, as a Peace Corps volunteer, I had the opportunity to visit a Madagascan fortune teller.
It was early evening and the sun had just released its death grip on the land below when I found myself standing in the mud-packed courtyard of his home. I had accompanied a friend and she let fly a series of probing questions: Will I find love? How can I make more money? When will it cool down/ rain? (Sub-Saharan Africa was experiencing a heat wave at the time).
The fortune teller made an incantation and tossed a handful of chicken bones upon the ground. He read the message. The Universe had spoken.
With the East Coast and Midwest of the U.S. experiencing a record-breaking heatwave, I recently consulted my own personal fortune teller/oracle—Google search—for answers. “Why is it so hot?” I type, along with “heat wave” and “global warming.”
I am inundated with information. Everybody seems to have an opinion—politicians, meteorologists, the Farmer’s Almanac and, of course, half-naked pedestrians. There are myriad causes, according to the internet. Global warming. Republicans. Democrats. Aliens. Scientologists. Honey badgers. The color red.
I am confused. Is this the postmodern version of tossing chicken bones and waiting for somebody to interpret the answer?
What I do know: if our weather continues to get progressively warmer, as atmospheric data has us believe, heat waves, power outages and violent storms like the recent one in DC will become more commonplace.
What does the Earth say?
As Americans, we cannot sustain the sort of lifestyle that we are led to believe we deserve: the mansion with A/C blowing a cool 68, the gas-guzzling vehicles, that huge flat-screened television, the high maintenance lawn.
This is not “making it.”
We cannot barricade ourselves inside our climate-controlled havens and simply hope for the best. This ethos of self-sufficiency can be easily broken down when our power grids become overloaded and our devices are rendered useless. We must learn to do more together. Switch off the A/C, gather up some friends and take advantage of the library or another cool community building. Turn off the TV and sit outside in the evenings.
Fellow Americans, let’s take a hint from our brethren around the globe. We do not have to be busy 24 hours a day, especially on triple-digit days. Sometimes, the most yogic thing one can do is to kick back, relax and eschew that marathon training, mowing and house-painting for cooler times. Listen to your body! (It has a lot to tell you!)
Editor: Kate Bartolotta