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How to Beat Extreme Heat: Keeping Our Cool When Confronting the Reality of the Climate Crisis

(A meteorologist noted that even the weather map looks like the worried emoji.)


According to the Old Farmer's Almanac, the Dog Days of Summer begin July 3rd and end on August 11th, representing the 40 hottest days of each year in the Northern Hemisphere.

And so far, July 2023 is living up to the reputation. On Monday, July 3rd, the average global temperature reached 17.01 degrees Celsius (62.62 Fahrenheit), the highest the US National Centers for the Environmental Prediction's ever recorded.

Then, on Tuesday, July 4th and Wednesday, July 5th, the record was broken again and again.

With another heat wave looming for later this week and the next, these "records not meant to be broken" will likely continue to crumble through the season.

The climate crisis is here and eco-anxiety is on the rise as we face this reality. Map of Current Excessive heat warmings across the Western U.S. (As of July 12, 2023)

How do we handle all this disruption, stress, and heat?

First make space to accept the reality that this may be the coolest summer we experience in a long time. Then look around and recognize that the people who contribute the least amount of carbon pollution are suffering the most. Take it all in.

The unhoused, the poor, the elderly, young people, people without access to air conditioning or shade - they need to be protected. That’s why climate justice is so important as we implement global climate solutions.

Lean into your sense of compassion and pledge to take action.

We embrace our own approach - finding #onegreenthing per day to contribute to the urgently needed culture change that is our great hope for the planet.

Before we dive in to suggestions based on Service Superpower, here are some key ways to see signs of heat exhaustion in this Sharecare infographic.

Be sure to take these precautions, too:

  • Follow to stay up-to-date about heat advisories in your area.

  • Drink 8-10 glasses of water a day (Stay hydrated!).

  • Avoid going outside from 10 am to 2 pm (the hottest part of the day) when you can.

  • Wear a broad rimmed hat, long sleeves and pants to protect yourself from the sun. Use moisture wicking fabrics if you can.

  • Wear sunscreen and reapply every two hours. Choose titanium dioxide or zinc oxide. Use, Consumer Reports or download EWG's Skin Deep app or the Think Dirty app to find a safe, effective sunscreen.

  • Find shade.

  • Rest frequently.

  • Check in on your elderly family members and neighbors and the children in your life.

  • Find a cooling center to stay cool.

  • Do not leave your pets in a unattended car; make sure they have plenty of water and shade as well.

  • Talk to your employer about the heat and make sure their are precautions to protect you especially if you work outside or have a long commute -- access to air conditioning, shade, frequent breaks, and plenty of water.

In addition to physical symptoms, heat waves are also creating a mental health toll. A 2022 Journal of American Psychiatry reported that trips to the emergency room for mental health issues increased on extremely hot days. The poor are most at risk because they lack access to cooling and proper care. Doctors think that the one of the main reasons that extreme heat impacts mental health is that it disrupts sleep patterns.

One thing is certain. More hot days are ahead and we need to care for ourselves and each other.

The next two weeks are estimated to be as hot as the first weeks of July. According to the Weather Channel, more population centers in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast will experience this extreme heat, with temperatures above 100 degrees F.

Let's dive in. Here are some ideas based on Service Superpower:

  • ADVENTURERS - share the news about how extreme weather is impacting the natural areas you love and urge family and friends to take action.

  • BEACONS - help family and friends understand the unequal impact of extreme heat on those most in need and why climate justice is so important. Check out this article that highlights how communities of color have less access to trees and shade than predominantly white neighborhoods.

  • INFLUENCERS - Share this guidance from the CDC on steps to take to stay cool during extreme heat.

  • PHILANTHROPISTS - give to cooling centers or the American Red Cross to support flood relief efforts.

  • SAGES - Consider the emotional impacts of these weather events and use the OGT intergenerational discussion guide to let young people know they are not alone in climate action.

  • SPARKS - Help your family plan for extreme weather events by downloading the OGT "Go Kit" and be prepared.

  • WONKS - Visit the new government website to monitor extreme heat and ways to prevent heat-related disease in your community.


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