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Offbeat 18 November 2016

Summer is here and it is the 16th summer in a row that it has been hotter than the previous summer. Stop to consider that for a moment. It’s easy to pretend that the monster won’t get you if you have your head under a blanket, but that doesn’t mean that the monster isn’t out there.
On the topic of monsters, I begin to understand the challenges of being a vampire. My formal workwear for summer is a pair of shorts. If I have to go out, which I did for the neighbourhood watch a couple of days ago, the aroma of crispy bacon begins to waft off me in little more than a few minutes.
My learning curve on that excursion also included a painful lesson on wearing shoes. I felt the burn on my soles for hours afterwards, but fortunately there wasn’t any blistering. Back when I was a kid, it was quite possible to walk on a road in midsummer, even when the tar was melting. Apparently not anymore.
Now one final trip down the road of bad metaphors. I also understand what an ice lolly must feel like when it is removed from the freezer.
My personal survival tactic is a desk fan that blows on my face most of the day. I don’t have air conditioning. I have an air cooler that gathers dust until the heat becomes too much, which isn’t just yet, though I suppose I will turn it on sometime in late December or early January.
If I had air conditioning I imagine I would leave that off as well. A look at the regular water savings graph from Windhoek municipality shows a massive dip around about the beginning of summer, and I ascribe that to an increase in the use of air conditioners. I hope it isn’t filling of pools. That would mean that my water saving would be being used to fill a pool. The thought of it being used for aircons is hard enough. Pool filling is too over the top to contend with.
Climate change, particularly heat and the current drought, are shaping our futures. I have mentioned the phenomenon of water war previously, particularly in connection with the Middle East. This week, I saw an interesting comment in the Guardian, attributing the rise of Boko Haram to ongoing drought in Nigeria. That’s interesting and quite scary.
The question I have to ask is how could the problem of water materialise in Namibia?
I thought of chucking handfuls of salt on green lawns as a way to put an end to that sort of unwanted watering until someone pointed out that it would just lead to excessive watering as wastrels tried to turn their lawns green again. Yet that sort of destructive idea points to the anger in which it is rooted. Personal anger will be one of the manifestations. Maybe there will be a dark bloom of water rage, sort of like road rage.
The anger will probably intensify. Water is needed for cooling. Without cooling, children and the elderly may die. As soon as individuals begin to make that link, water wastage may lead to acts of violence on the part of people who have experienced losses.
I can’t imagine that it will lead to fundamentalist sects seizing the opportunity of filling the void of desperation. I can imagine that it may lead to xenophobia. The trend of ‘Namibia for Namibians’ is becoming more pronounced now, and if there isn’t enough water to go around, the dark logic of reducing users will almost certainly begin with foreigners. I can conceive of civil disturbances though. Building and employment in that sector are already a worry, and what if people are forced to rely on bottled water and the price goes up.
There is plenty that I can hide from under a blanket, but it won’t make the root of the matter go away. It looks very much like an emerging dystopia, but there is a potential future that may still be hot and dry, but offers the possibility of survival with a modicum of comfort. The potential lies in evolution, probably looking at people who live in the deep desert. Perhaps it involves different types of behavior, and relearning how we build to shelter from the heat. For now I am relearning how to tolerate heat. One fan. No air blower or airconditioner.

About The Author

Pierre Maré

Pierre Maré is a multi-awarded Namibian advertising strategist and copy writer. From 2004 to 2016 he wrote a weekly tongue-in-cheek column for the Namibia Economist, eventually amassing an impressive 590 articles over the almost 12-year period. This series of Offbeat is a digital rerun of his pieces that received the highest reader acclaim. - Ed.