What we feel depends a lot on what we've become used to.
So we’ve had a little heat wave. The temperature flirted with 100 degrees a few days and even crossed the line to set a record of 106, and there was enough accompanying humidity to suck the air right out of our lungs. Are we going to keep whining about it? What are we, a bunch of wimps?
Why, our granddaddies had it way worse than this. During the Dust Bowl days in 1934, there was a six-day string of 100-degree days just down in Indianapolis, followed by nine consecutive 100-plus days in 1936. And that was before air conditioning and ice machines and 20-oz. Slurpees and the 24-hour minimart. Think those hardy people whined? Of course not – they were tough!
Well, not necessarily. They were just better able to handle the heat because they were more used to it. We aren’t as used to it, so it hurts more.
So says Earl Breon, a National Weather Service program leader quoted by the Indianapolis Star. “Back then, they had a lot less amenities to help,” he said.
Researchers at Miami University are finding that most cases of heat-related illness and death are caused not by the severity of the heat but rather the “variability of the weather” in cities that haven’t experienced a lot of hot weather. People in, say, Arizona, can handle heat waves much better than Hoosiers because their lifestyles and even their buildings have adapted to such heat.
You know the phenomenon. If there’s a drop to 40 degrees in the middle of August, it feels awfully chilly. But let that same 40-degree day pop up in February and people feel like rushing outside in T-shirts. Everything is relative to what surrounds it. Whether it’s mostly in our heads or a real physical manifestation, our experiences depend on what we are used to.
There’s no great lesson in this, merely a cautionary note. It is fine that we become ever more civilized and able to create a comfortable society. But we’d better not forget where we came from. You never know when nature is going to go from indifferent to hostile, and then we’ll need the sterner stuff we have tucked away and forgotten.
Let's hear it for the debates
Since there’s no incumbent in the Indiana gubernatorial race, it is harder for us to know the positions and opinions of the candidates. That makes hearing the contenders debate one another even more important than it usually is.
The good news is that the Indiana Debate Commission has announced that Democrat John Gregg, Republican Mike Pence and Libertarian Rupert Boneham have agreed to three debates. Stay tuned for times and places to be announced.