Heatwave Hysteria and Post-Pride Reflections

Anybody who knows anything about Irish people will know this: we love to complain about the weather. Sounding off about it is a time-honoured national pastime. Every type of weather we get is fair game for our moaning marathons. Our usual climatic conditions (dull grey skies, moderate temperatures, and regular bouts of rain) provide us with a never-ending source of rants about how we never get any nice days. When warm weather does come along, however, we waste no time in complaining that it’s too hot. For us, the weather is never just right: it’s always too wet, too dry, too cold, too hot, too windy, too boring…

Our fixation with discussing the weather is never more apparent during the rare occasions when extreme temperatures make themselves known on these shores. Irish people cannot cope with extreme temperatures. We are used to our moderate climate and our lack of major variation between the seasons. We generally experience cool summers and mild winters, devoid of major intensity one way or another … so when anything happens to derail us from that well-established course of events, panic soon sets in.

This panic was very much in evidence earlier this year, when the Beast from the East struck and shops soon ran out of such absolutely essential staple products as Brennan’s bread and Tayto crisps. Irish people rushed out in their droves to bulk-buy the lot, convinced that Armageddon was surely upon us now that a bit of actual snow – heaven preserve us all – was flying around the place. We are in the midst of an unprecedented heatwave right now. Ireland is hotter than it has been in over four decades, grass is rapidly dying off and turning into straw, and the impact this has had on our landscape can even be seen from space. The panic-buying of suncream commenced in earnest last week, when it became clear that the heatwave was here to stay. I needed to buy a new tube of SPF 50 last week, and soon discovered that although there were plenty of SPF 10s, 12s and 15s lying around, the higher SPF creams were like gold dust.

What I love the most about Irish people’s attitudes towards unexpected circumstances (weather-related or not) is that we have a way of infusing humour into every situation. This quote from the satirical news site Waterford Whispers sums up the general atmosphere here at the moment:

The country of Ireland, which comes with instructions to ‘store in a cool, dry place and never put in direct sunlight’ is perilously close to exceeding the temperatures required to set everything on fire.

“Hot everywhere, make it stop,” said a large portion of the Irish public whose surroundings would soon be a fiery, flame-filled inferno from which we will never escape.

In a bid to ease the sense of panic building within the country, tabloid newspapers and online publications have taken to driving through the streets with megaphones while shouting ‘say goodbye to your loved ones before we are all flames’.

And the memes … well, the memes have been glorious.

SunIreland

WeatherReality

IrelandFirstHeatwave

The whole thing has been amusing in many ways, but I’m also unnerved by the fact that forecasters cannot yet see an end to the heatwave, water restrictions have been put in place, and a widespread drought is imminent if current conditions continue. Reflecting on both the Beast From the East visitation and our current, extremely unusual heatwave, I am reminded of Amanda Ellis’ words about 2018 being a year of pronounced duality, when the juxtaposition of polar opposites will be very evident in many spheres of life. In the late 2017/early 2018 proliferation of extreme winter storms across the Northern Hemisphere, together with the unusual heatwave that we are now experiencing, I see evidence of the planet’s weather patterns becoming more and more unstable.

I wrote about the aforementioned winter storms for One Green Planet a few months ago. In that article, I referenced a study that was published in the Nature Communications journal at the start of this year. This study appeared to confirm that rapid thawing of the Arctic – driven by global warming – had caused cold winds to be propelled in the direction of countries just below the Arctic Circle. Analysing weather data collected from 1950, and using a model called the accumulated winter season severity index, they found that the increased severity of winter weather across the Northern Hemisphere (particularly the eastern U.S.) was linked to a raising of temperatures in the Arctic Circle. The researchers said: “Increasing greenhouse gases are contributing to a general warming of the atmosphere and oceans globally. Over recent decades, warming has dominated global temperature trends during three of the seasons. In winter, however, cooling trends have been observed across Eurasia and the eastern US, along with rapid warming in the Arctic. This seesaw winter temperature pattern is known as the “warm-Arctic/cold-continents pattern.”

The Washington Post recently released a somewhat sobering report demonstrating that a plethora of new warm-temperature records have been set across the globe this summer. Here is a quick sample of the joyful tidings:

Eurasia

A large dome of high pressure, or heat dome, has persistently sat on top of Eurasia over the past week, resulting in some extraordinarily hot weather:

North America

A massive and intense heat dome has consumed the eastern two-thirds of the United States and southeast Canada since late last week. It’s not only been hot but also exceptionally humid. Here are some of the notable all-time records set:

These various records add to a growing list of heat milestones set over the past 15 months that are part and parcel of a planet that is trending hotter as greenhouse gas concentrations increase because of human activity:

Scientists and researchers around the world have been warning us of an impending environmental catastrophe for many years now. I haven’t really discussed environmental issues on my blog before, but as concerns about the state of the planet become more and more urgent, I know it’s something I want to start addressing more often.

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Last weekend I attended Dublin’s Pride parade, as I have done since the very first time I attended it in 2015. I recall my first Pride as a nerve-wracking yet empowering event. It was not only the first time I had ever dared to attend the parade, it was also the first time I had marched in it, and as it came on the heels of a momentous referendum that had paved the way for the legalisation of same-sex marriage in Ireland just a month previously, the lingering impact it has had on me is difficult to fully express in words. But as the event has grown more and more commercialised in recent years, and a number of queer people I know have become too uncomfortable to attend it for a wide range of reasons, my feelings about Pride have become complicated. Waterford Whispers is once again on hand to summarise many of my own thoughts on this (thoughts that I know are shared by a large proportion of the LGBT+ community) in their aptly-titled article, Corporations Go Back to Not Giving a Fuck About Gay Lads.

With Pride week over for another year, huge multi-national corporations have begun to rid their branches and their media calendars of pro-LGBT messaging, or indeed anything that vaguely resembles a rainbow.

Pride Week, now known as Pride™ Week, has become one of the hottest events on the marketing calendar, with more and more companies doing their best to ‘own Pride’ during June, before getting back to pandering to the straight community for the rest of the year.

Meanwhile Gardaí have stated that being beaten up during Pride weekend has been downgraded from ‘gay-bashing’ to just ‘bashing’, and that it’s all just a bit of fun anyways.

I remember 2015 as a year of comparative innocence and optimism, not just in my own life, but in the perspective of the world as a whole. There we all were, so naïve and hopeful about the future: pre-Trump, pre-Brexit, pre-fake news’ overt dominance over social media, pre-unbelievable political scandals and a general sense of jadedness. In 2015, I do not recall being quite as inured to scandal as I am now. I have since grown weary of the open exploitation of Pride by commercial interests, and how its revolutionary message of freedom has been pushed aside in favour of statements such as “homosexual / heterosexual / who gives-a-sexual” or “labels are for bottles, not people”. These lines are trotted out every single year by a certain drinks company who – as the incredible activist group Queer Action Ireland pointed out on Twitter – stand to profit from higher rates of alcoholism and substance abuse among LGBT+ people, and do not donate to any organisations that advocate on these people’s behalf. They are far from alone in this: Queer Action Ireland also drew attention to the hypocrisy behind YouTube’s support of the Pride parade, when this company has consistently demonetised content by LGBT+ creators, restricted access to LGBT+ themed videos, and even allowed queerphobic advertisements to be run alongside those videos. AirBnB and Amazon were two other companies whose supposed solidarity was revealed to be dubious, at best.

20180630_145046.jpgDuring this year’s parade, I was incredibly grateful for the presence of numerous activist groups such as Radical Queers Resist, who have done an incredible job of covering up the graphic anti-abortion imagery that began to spring up outside Ireland’s queer venues, maternity hospitals, government buildings and roadways during our recent referendum on the Eighth Amendment (sadly, the group behind the imagery – the Irish Centre for Bioethical Reform [ICBR] – have not yet stopped displaying their posters, but that’s a rant for another day). I felt heartened, too, when Bi+ Ireland came along, providing me and other bisexual people in the crowd with a strong, uplifting statement of visibility.

Despite all of my misgivings about what Pride has become, my spirits were buoyed by those moments of genuine happiness and hope last weekend.

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