There’s a sickly stench coming from my back garden, aside from the usual smell of stray cat droppings. Further investigation led me to the small carcass of a blackbird, probably one I’ve seen hopping from branch to branch on the cherry tree outside my living room window. The poor little thing lay crumpled in a heap, tangled in my newly trimmed hedge. Was it one of the cats? It didn’t look that way. Bird flu? Somehow I doubt it. The unusual weather forecast of hot and sunny throughout the last couple of weeks? Apparently so. It seems that birds have been dropping dead from dehydration and heat exhaustion all across this normally cool and clouded island. They can’t take the days on end of blazing sun and no rain, and the proof is lying in my garden awaiting a proper burial.
The people are complaining. Working as I do in a school, the responsibility often falls to me to collect the dozens of messages left by parents in the mornings explaining why their child will not be coming in for lessons. Last week, during Sports Day (imagine a track meet complete with egg and spoon races), a significant number of parents felt that their child was already suffering from the heat and that sending him or her outside was out of the question. This behaviour baffles me. All year long, the British complain that the sun never shines on them, that they’ll live and die in cool damp weather. Out comes the sun and suddenly every little ailment must be due to the heat. Never until living in this country have I heard the phrase heat sickness. Now I hear it all summer long. Feeling tired? Don’t blame it on lack of sleep, hop on the bandwagon and blame the heat!
I have to admit, it is warm. Temperatures are reaching 35 degrees Celsius and over in places in the southern United Kingdom (UK). Overexposure (as any tropical citizen will tell you) can do damage. But people should know better than that. For years doctors, scientists and television presenters have been warning us about the dangers of the sun. We know it is potentially dangerous. We know to wear sunscreen, to get in the shade for awhile, and to drink a lot of water. This is common sense at this stage in our evolution, isn’t it? Sports Day or no Sports Day, teachers and organizers wouldn’t have let the children perish in the heat.
That said, it is clear that these high temperatures are above average and a warmer trend seems to be forming in the UK. While people should have the knowledge and capabilities of thwarting immediate sun damage to themselves, what will happen to the animals who depend on relative regularity for their survival?
I think that falls to us too. Whether you argue that people caused climate change or the counter that it’s just a natural phenomenon, I don’t think anyone can really deny its existence anymore. It’s hot out here! People have big brains and the ability to help themselves and other species get through tough times, so what’s stopping everyone? Remember, with our big brains come big hearts. We feed those little birds in the winter to keep them fit and healthy. We can do the same in hot summers by putting out a fresh bowl of water for them to drink and bathe in. I’m sure we’d all rather see happy birds singing in the trees than smell them rotting in our bushes. I would, anyway.