OPINION

Heat waves and general discontent

Sometimes I wonder whether we really suffer as much as we claim to during heat waves. It may be that our environment has changed so much and as a consequence our outlook too, that such extreme weather conditions provoke unprecedented discontent and whinging, anxiety and short tempers. Temperatures above 40 Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) were quite normal in the past, particularly in parts of the mainland such as my hometown of Larissa. I remember the type of heat waves we experienced in Larissa and the Thessaly Plain. The temperature was the same as it is now but then it was far more bearable, even pleasant, as the heat spread out across the countryside. In those days also, heat waves would strike before the peak of summer, like this year. Crossing the Thessaly Plain by train, you would see farmers at work, hundreds of them toiling under the blazing sun. You never heard about heat stroke back then, either because doctors did not know about it or because the people had been hardened by farm work and only very few reached the ripe old ages that are now classified as a «high-risk group» during heat waves. The only defense against high temperatures in those days was the cool water drawn from village wells. Very few homes had a traditional icebox, containing a large block of ice, which at the time was considered a luxury. But the heat wave was much cleaner in those days, free of the polluted air particles and toxic emissions that make the atmosphere in the capital so asphyxiating when temperatures rise. The sea breeze too, which circulated more freely then, helped cool people down. These days we are far better equipped to cope with a heat wave. We have larger homes with bigger refrigerators containing plenty of soft drinks, lightweight clothing and air conditioning in the vast majority of buildings and cars. It is also far easier for us to escape the capital for cooler destinations. But we are more dissatisfied than ever; we fear sunstroke and we complain incessantly. It is not just the changes in our environment, with the capital now smothered in concrete and the destruction of vast tracts of cooling forestland, rivers and lakes that contribute to our malaise. I believe it is also changes in our own nature and way of life. We have become overweight from too much food and drink combined with sedentary lifestyles at home and at work. But the most significant change is that we are completely unprepared to tackle any adversity, any inconvenience whatsoever. We are annoyed when there is a heat wave, when there are storms, snowfall or strong winds. And we are constantly moaning, because such natural phenomena – whether extreme or otherwise – occur all year round. Could it be that we have become so self-obsessed and egocentric that the only thing of concern to us is our own personal gratification? If so, then «bon courage» to us all.