One is reassured that one lives in profound times when much is made of the heat of summer. In duller days, when a person makes the observation that it is hot outside -- and when the observation is made in June, July, or August -- it can be assumed that profundity is not the aim. Instead, the observer is seen to be engaging in small talk, and very small talk at that.
In our day, however, it is the wisest members of society who make much of summer's heat, and as we know the wise don't waste time with empty chatter. To ask "Is it hot enough for you?" is to reveal a mind fully attuned to the greatest issue of the day, short of Islamist attempts to eradicate Democracy: That issue is the slow, deliberate roasting of humanity.
Not only is warming an article of faith, but it is further insisted that Western consumer societies are to blame. We have brought this dangerously renegade condition upon the world and unless we fix things soon vast calamities will ensue. These messages are transmitted with such certitude and alarm that many of us are convinced we are being confronted by fanatics. Hellfire, we're sure of it. To these people, every degree of temperature is like every foot of elevation to one afraid of heights -- cause for additional fear. Because it tends to be hot between June and August, there will be no end to their panting.
How does a reasonable person cope?
There are a few reasonable responses to fanatics, besides hanging them. The first is mockery. What? You say it's 85 degrees in mid-June. What's next? Darkness at midnight? The other approach, favored these days, is to exhibit understanding. It can be easily enough observed that the afflicted suffer from "control issues" -- a maniacal need to feel that they are either in control of the climate, or can bring the climate back around to an Edenic state with the proper public policies, such as mandatory carpooling and refusing to use weed whackers and other trivial applications of the internal combustion engine.
But there's nothing better than letting these people have it with a bucket of cold water, as has Andrew Kenny in the current Spectator (London version). Mr. Kenny's essay is very much worth reading in the original (it is available at the Spectator's website), but in short he says the global warming scare is ginned up and what we really have to worry about is the next Ice Age. Mr. Kenny's message is so pleasantly heretical you'd figure he'd be a hero among the "question authority" crowd. That doesn't yet seem to be the case. Maybe that crowd doesn't really mean what it says.
Mr. Kenny, however, is convincing enough.
Like all good heretics, Mr. Kenny begins by forcing the faithful to eat their own words, which includes reprinting a paragraph from Time magazine, circa 1994: "The ice age cometh? Last week's big chill was a reminder that the Earth's climate can change at any time.... The last one [ice age] ended 10,000 years ago; the next one -- for there will be a next one -- could start tens of thousands of years from now. Or tens of years. Or it may have already started."
One hates to agree too much with that journal of muscular hysteria, yet Kenny makes a convincing case that Time was right -- at least back then. "The last ice age ended about 10,000 years ago," says Mr. Kenny. "Temperatures rose to the 'Holocene Maximum' of about 5,000 years ago when it was about 3°F higher than now, dropped in the time of Christ, and then rose to the 'Mediaeval Climate Optimum' of about 600 ad to 1100 ad, when temperatures were about 2°F higher than now. This was a golden age for northern European agriculture and led to the rise of Viking civilization. Greenland, now a frozen wasteland, was then a habitable Viking colony. There were vineyards in the south of England. Then temperatures dropped to 'The Little Ice Age' in the 1600s, when the Thames froze over. And they have been rising slowly ever since, although they are still much lower than 1,000 years ago. We are now living in a rather cool period."
Some of us down here in the near-tropics were thinking the very same thing the other night, when the weatherman suggested putting on flannel pajamas as nighttime temperatures were expected to dip into the 50s. In mid-June, no less. One should never generalize from isolated incidents, of course, yet as the cool air blew in through the window, Mr. Kenny's final prediction also picked up a little steam: "For the last two million years, but not before, the Northern Hemisphere has gone through a regular cycle of ice ages: 90,000 years with ice; 10,000 years without. The last ice age ended 10,000 years ago. Our time is up."
It's nice to know we may freeze instead of roast, and there's always the possibility we'll be pulverized by a killer asteroid. It's really starting to look like none of us is getting off this planet alive. So, how 'bout them Redskins?