Thursday, June 20, 2024

Getting Ready for the Heat

The world is getting warmer.

There's not any question of it now, really.  I mean, sure, you can argue otherwise, but only if you never go outside.  It's not a question of whether global warming will occur, but of just how hot things are going to get.

The science is out on that particular question, although most of it points to things becoming more and more unpleasant as the years progress, with "unpleasant" meaning year after year of heat records inching up, and the equatorial regions becoming functionally uninhabitable.

Here on the Eastern seaboard of the United States, things are a little different.  Forests have made a comeback, despite all of our relentless sprawl and paving, which has helped blunt the heat in the region.  Still, it's going to get hotter.  Winters have become close to snow-free here in Virginia.  Summers have sprawled out, and grown more intense.

Which means, if we are to face this future, that we need to be thinking about ways to adapt and prepare.

That's been a consideration in my own household, as we've both reduced our consumption of fossil fuels and begun the process of preparing our house for hotter days.  We put a new roof on last year, and when we did so, we selected a lighter colored shingle.  Lighter colored shingles have a higher albedo, which means they reflect away more of the sun's energy.  It's a simple thing, but it reduces cooling demand.  Our house is nestled in the shelter of dozens of shade trees to the East, which means that by the hottest part of the day, it's in shade.  Our roof overhangs the side of our house by several feet, reducing solar load to the interior, and at 1300 finished square feet, it requires less energy to cool.

Out in the yard, I've made a shift in my garden this year, as for the first time I've planted okra. My mom being from the South and all, I'm entirely aware of the challenges of cooking okra just right, and the unpleasantness if you cook it wrong.  When I tell folks I'm growing okra, many recoil.  This is unfair, because if you fry it up just so, it's really quite delicious.  It's great batter-fried, sure, but also pan-fried with masala.  Note, again, that the key word here is "fried."  

Looking ahead to our inescapably warmer world, okra makes a whole lot of sense.  Abelmoschus esculentus is grown in tropical climes throughout the world, and is both robust, nutritious, and highly heat tolerant.   It's also purportedly quite easy to seedsave, meaning it should be a stalwart contributor to any home garden in our hotter world.  Should.  I've still not seen a crop, or saved seed, so I don't want to get ahead of myself.

It's only the fool who doesn't prepare for the most likely tomorrow, after all.