Since 2000 128, 885 people have died from exposure to the effects of extreme heat. 1 In 1995 the city of Chicago over a period of five days had 739 heat-related deaths. Most of these were among the elderly who couldn’t afford an air conditioner. They didn’t open windows or sleep outside for fear of crime. 2 One-third of the world is experiencing deadly heatwaves due to the effects of climate change.3 According to an environmental think tank, 35,000 people died in Europe during a heatwave in 2003. 4 When you read these startling statistics it’s important to remember these were preventable deaths. Health authorities in Quebec say that up to 70 deaths may be attributed to the heat wave in early July. 5 As a Canadian and a human-being, these lives lost are saddening. Any loss of life is tragic. My wife Karen’s and my heart go out to all those who have lost loved ones. You are in our thoughts and prayers. We pray God will bring people who will be there to listen and help as you grieve.
There are those for and against the use of air conditioners. In many European countries, buildings are designed to keep cool air in. It’s common for people to wear sweaters inside during the winter and keep their heating costs down. Many have been in air-conditioned buildings that are so cold you need to wear a sweater on a hot July day. We need to use energy wisely, but if we are too hot we can die as our body stops being able to cool itself off. It’s called hyperthermia. Your core body temperature keeps rising beyond your body’s ability to cope. It can kill you. There is such a thing as a false economy. What good is it if you end up in the hospital or die because you didn’t want to raise your energy costs? You can purchase an energy efficient air conditioner that only goes to the temperature you want it. It can be switched to an auto setting, which means periodically the air conditioner shuts off to conserve energy.
“In this life, we have three great lasting qualities—faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of them is love” (I Cor.13:13, J.B. Phillips New Testament). In a declarative sentence, the apostle Paul asserts three characteristics of Christian maturity. The kind of faith Paul calls Christians at Corinth to show is not one that is fleeting, fluctuating like the weather. This is a steadfast faith. Faith and hope go hand in hand. Without the belief that our circumstances will get any better where is hope? Where is the will to go on? We can face hardships that there seems to be no way out of. The hard knocks of life can wear down our hope, take the fight out of us. It’s okay to admit that. It’s okay to ask for help. We aren’t called by our Father to be an island unto ourselves. We need God first, but we also need one another. While God can change people’s circumstances it has been my observance that He more often changes people’s hearts. They become much less me focused and more others-centered.
Think of what a cool refreshing wind is like. We felt that yesterday as we got a break from the excessive heat and humidity. The temperature here in our town of Matheson, northern Ontario, Canada, went down to 10 degrees Celsius. That’s about 50 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s quite a change from temperatures in the high 30s with a humidex as high as 47 degrees Celsius. What a relief it was! Our air conditioner broke down. We weren’t sleeping well because our bedroom felt like an oven. There have been times I felt like I was going to pass out from the weakness these ongoing dangerously high temperatures and humidity have caused. Karen experienced dizziness, weakness, feeling that the simplest of tasks were like climbing a mountain. It has been over a two-week ordeal. We’ll be so glad when all affected by this heatwave receive cooler weather.
In the days, weeks and months that follow tough questions will need to be asked about why all these people died in Quebec, Europe, Asia, and other places in the world. Throughout Europe and Asia hundreds of people have died from the heatwave in July. 20 of those deaths were in Greece. 40 of them were in Japan. 10 people have lost their lives in South Korea. 6 As those necessary questions are asked let us be reminded that at the heart of our behavior there should be love. Finger pointing will not bring back the lives of those who have died. We need to hold those accountable who allowed these deaths to occur where it is determined their actions could have saved lives. Right now though the focus needs to be on what we can do to help those affected.
Perhaps, you bought a new air conditioner. The older one is sitting in your garage or basement collecting dust. Donate it to a charity group. Many on low incomes can’t afford to buy an air conditioner. We should have community fundraisers to support this cost. There could be more subsidies for those too poor to afford the increased energy costs having an air conditioner will involve. Just google either cooling assistance program or energy assistance program. Such programs as the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program in the United States or those offered by non-profit organizations, may be of assistance to those who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford to have an air conditioner. 7 Programs like these can provide for the energy costs for having an air conditioner. There are programs that give out free ones. You could also get a used air conditioner at a thrift store and give it to someone who needs it.
There are those with respiratory conditions such as asthma who need an air conditioner. To go outside could mean an ER visit or death.
Government policies could be changed so that no matter how poor people are they will be given an air conditioner. Think of the costs to the healthcare system from not giving the poor an air conditioner. The millions of dollars ER visits and hospitalizations cost due to heat-related illness could be reduced by redirecting that money to ensure the poorest people would receive an air conditioner. People are always advertising air conditioners on sites such as Kijiji and Craigslist as well as Facebook Buy and Sell Groups. Some are giving away their air conditioners. You could say you are picking one up for someone you know who needs one explaining why it’s needed. If you want to keep your gift anonymous just drop it off when no one is there. Businesses and corporations could give air conditioners to charity groups.
If everyone gave $1 to support the purchase of air conditioners and funding more walk-in cooling centers, this would save countless lives.
Having an air conditioner or access to more cooling centers worldwide should be a basic human right. With the effects of global warming causing temperatures to rise having access to an air conditioner, and more cooling centers will become increasingly important. Addressing this issue is easier said than done. It will take political will as well as our individual and collective voice to make it happen. Email or call your political representatives. Tell them you want no one denied an air conditioner. Ask for laws to be instituted that will ensure the poor aren’t denied an air conditioner. More funds need to be directed towards establishing more cooling centers. If you have ideas how money could be allocated for air conditioners for the needy and having more cooling centers, please share them in your community, church, and with the government.
I’m not saying doing all this will be easy. Think for a moment though how difficult the path of love can be. It has rocky places difficult to traverse. It requires commitment. We stumble. We fall. We all get bloodied and bruised. We all get it wrong. But the love God puts in our hearts glows. It shines its light in the darkness and hopelessness of people’s lives. It keeps on giving. It keeps on believing. It keeps on trusting.
A dear friend and brother in Christ shared with us that he sees his Christianity as essential to his existence as breathing. Without Christ’s love in his heart he believes he would die. Think of how our lives would change if more of us treated our Christian faith as a life or death experience. That would be so infectious as your life changed another, and that person, in turn, was used by God to change the life of another. That’s the multiplying effect of love. All it takes is one spark, one person. What if that person was you?
There are days where I see how much I have failed to be as loving as I could to my wife, Karen, and others. We all miss the mark. We all blow it. But here’s the great news! God loves us. He forgives us when we come to Him with a sincere heart. He says, “I love you with an everlasting love.” Wow! Now that’s love! If Christ could forgive being mocked, ridiculed, beaten, despised, rejected, abandoned by His disciples, betrayed by Judas for 30 pieces of silver, and crucified, is it really too much to ask to try to be more loving and forgiving?
Never underestimate what the power of love can do. God’s love for others in us needs to be at the heart of all we do. Without love all we do is nothing but empty words devoid of substance.
Let us be much more loving, caring, kind and giving people. That’s what love is all about.
Please reflect on this quote about caring for others as you think, hear and read about all those who have died as a result of heat exposure. As you do this think of those who grieve. In your busy schedule take a few minutes to pray for them. Then, turn your thoughts to someone you know who is in need. Be there for that person. Show you care. Tell them you share their burdens.
“Mercy is to care and care very deeply about one another. It is to care to the point where we are prepared to be involved with the sufferings and adversities of others. It implies that I am prepared to put myself in the other person’s place. It means that I shall try to really understand why they behave as they do, even though it injures me. It is a willingness to walk a mile in the other man’s moccasins before I criticize his conduct. It is the extension of good will, help, forgiveness, compassion, and kindness to one who may not seem to deserve it.” ―W. Phillip Keller, Salt For Society
Dearly beloved of God, when you care like that, you will find there is a lot of love in an air conditioner.
Dr. Kevin James Osborne, Psy D., D.Sc., D.D., is the Vice-President of Institutional and Mission Development for St. James the Elder University. He feels God is leading him to graduate study in theology and counseling. Karen is a counsellor. She is also a Master to Doctoral student in Psychology at SJEU. Our mission field is wherever God puts us for His glory.