Monday’s summer solstice followed an unsettling 13 consecutive months of record-setting heat on this planet, in a year that is on track to be, yet again, the hottest ever. Across the American West, warnings of dangerous heat have been issued, spanning four states and some 40 million people. At least five deaths have been attributed to the heat wave so far in Arizona, which hit 120 degrees in Yuma.
In California’s Yosemite National Park, President Barack Obama, visiting with his family, noted the near disappearance of a glacier that once covered a mile of the valley. “Climate change is no longer a threat,” he said. “It’s a reality.”
Temperatures this high are not something to mess with, and every toddler left in a hot car or hiker who gets lost without sufficient water inspires fresh reminders. So respect this heat. Wear sunscreen. Avoid alcohol. Drink plenty of water. If you work outside, hydrate; if you’re an employer, provide shade, rest periods and at least a quart of water an hour for each employee.
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Don’t leave children, elderly people or pets in enclosed vehicles, even for a few minutes. Don’t leave children unattended near a pool, and even if you aren’t using your pool, lock your pool gates.
If you see a dog panting alone in a hot car, call an animal control agency or 911. Though state lawmakers are weighing a well-publicized bill allowing Good Samaritans to free such trapped pets, it hasn’t passed yet.
If you go to the river to cool off, use life preservers. They’re available at Tiscornia Beach and at other spots along the American and Sacramento Rivers, and can be checked out for free at several county fire stations. (This videowill show you how to save yourself from drowning if you get caught in a current.)
Meanwhile, be a good citizen. Don’t smoke or bring matches onto wildlands or hiking areas. The operators of the power grid in California have asked that customers conserve energy to avoid power outages.
State officials decided in May to let urban water suppliers self-certify that their water reserves are sufficient – a shift that will no doubt guide a Sacramento City Council vote Tuesday on rolling back the city’s water conservation mandates. We wish they’d rethink that; the drought isn’t over yet.
But long-term, it would also help to change some habits – replace that gas guzzler, perhaps, or make your home more energy efficient. Every little bit helps, even in an apocalypse.