Deborah Coen, “The heat wave could force Europeans to rethink flawed, centuries-old ideas” (Washington Post)

July 21, 2022

As Britain and France grapple with sweltering temperatures — possibly even record temperatures — for which their countries are ill-equipped, their privileged residents are at a crossroads. Will they respond by installing central air and stronger locks on their doors, pretending that they can secure their futures by walling themselves off from those who work — and sweat — to provide for them? Or could this devastating heat wave prompt a sense of solidarity with those around the world for whom climate change has already made 100-degree-plus temperatures an everyday hazard?

Ever since Western Europeans began to hatch schemes to exploit the Americas, they have used their “temperate” climate to define themselves against those they colonized or enslaved. Throughout the 19th century and well into the 20th, European scientists attributed their society’s successes — intellectual, commercial and military — in part to an even-keeled climate that proved friendly to industry and agriculture as well as conducive to mental labor.

Now, with climate change mocking the very notion of a “temperate” region, might Western Europeans finally give up the myth that there is anything natural about their history of global dominance? 

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