To Orlando, “The City Beautiful.”
I thought it was perfectly named. I saw flowers everywhere. Palm trees. Gorgeous gardens. Beautiful clear lakes.
It is no longer The City Beautiful although it continues to bear that name. There have been a lot of changes, many not so good.
Of course, the name also was inappropriate back in 1955. I just didn’t know it. Because I was white and never was taken to the “other side of the tracks,” actually the other side of the street whose name is Division, where Blacks lived in poverty and persecution. The only hint I saw, and it was a big one, was the dual fountains at a grocery store, one labeled “WHITES” and the other “COLOREDS.”
Those, at least, have gone, so not everything is worse.
Even though there is much to be said, positive and negative, about changes in the last 70 years in so many different areas, this discussion is about only one. There are no new insights. Sometimes I just have to comment on the stupidity we humans exhibit repeatedly.
We had hot days in New Jersey, maybe two or three a year when the temperature would reach as high as 100. On those days some businesses would send employees home early.
That 1955 visit was in July. Unlike New Jersey, I found every day was hot with highs in the nineties. People cooled their houses overnight using large attic fans that pulled the heat from the homes. That worked because the outside air, heated by sun and attic fans, was cooled daily by reliable 20-minute afternoon “gully washer” storms and by morning the temperature had dipped to 70 degrees.
Few homes had air conditioning. I remember loving to enter the grocery store because it employed this newfangled cooling system and it provided a nice break. But, overall, things weren’t bad, because 70 degree mornings actually were pleasant and those afternoon storms helped maintain them.
Eventually air conditioning was everywhere and before too long those morning temperatures had climbed to the mid-seventies. It seems to me there were two causes related to air conditioning. First there was the air conditioning itself. It spewed hot air from the homes and other structures into the outdoor environment. That sounds like what attic fans did, so what’s the big deal? Well, the fans really couldn’t cool to the same degree that A/C units do, so the amount of heat they pulled out would have been less. And, in actual fact, the number of such fans was limited. Air conditioners now are everywhere, so their impact has to be significantly greater than the fans.
But there was an additional effect following the air conditioning revolution. Suddenly Florida was a state which, to many people, had become inhabitable.
So people came. More and more of them. Millions more. And a large aerospace company. And a giant amusement park. And then many other such parks. People flocked to them and hotel rooms were built and cooled and outside air was heated.
The ambient temperatures started going to hell. Now morning temperatures routinely hit the high seventies and even the eighties while daily heat indices often peak well over 100. Our demand for comfort is heating our community.
And so is much more, fueled by the modernization we all want and the greed of those supplying it to us. So we poison our planet with gas guzzling cars, cattle emissions for our red meat craze, deforestation, and more. All contributing to the rising temperatures impacting Florida, the entire country, and indeed the world.
What have we done?
And so many of our so-called leaders refuse to see it. Their eyes are closed not only to excessive temperatures, but also to sea level rise, high ocean temperatures, increased hurricane forces, excessive rainfalls, gigantic wild fires, and more.
Experts repeatedly tell us we must reach certain benchmarks worldwide by specified dates in order to counter the effects of this crisis change, yet even heroic actions being taken by many seem like they will fall short.
Now we have a political party who denies the changes everyone with at least one of the senses can understand. This party promises increased oil production and exploration. Its leaders must hate their grandchildren.
Indeed, what have we done?
And even worse, what are we doing?