• Carmen Marie Fabio

The heat of the moment


The start of the new school year turns over not just a calendar page but refocuses our energies away from the vacation mindset and into prepping for the coming cold season. It’s reflected in the change in produce display in the outdoor markets, from summer herbs and colourful annuals to the first harvest of hearty squash and apples, ready for roasting and baking.

What a drag that these fruits of the harvest start to appear on the shelves when we’re still under one of countless heat and humidity warnings that have been issued this summer. At this writing, humidex values are predicted to reach, or exceed, 40 degrees leaving the air feeling like paste in our lungs and any wind no more refreshing than a dog breathing heavily on your skin.

As someone who was born in the dead of winter in the middle of the night, I despise this weather but I’m also one of the lucky ones who leaves my air-conditioned bedroom in the morning, gets into an air-conditioned car, and drives to my air-conditioned office, deftly dodging the sticky heat pockets along the way.

Other members of my family aren’t so fortunate and while they don’t physically wither and wilt in the heat the way I do, they’re certainly not comfortable in their daily routines.

The temperature reading in my son’s high school classroom on the small thermometer I insisted he take with him read 36 degrees with the afternoon sunshine streaming through the windows in a building whose original architectural design was meant to maximize natural light but now just acts as a giant magnifying glass. And the kicker – the school has air-conditioning but it is considered too expensive to operate, except for the administrative offices.

In understanding the importance of having a proper breakfast in order to succeed academically, schools adapted breakfast and even lunch programs to ensure kids are not distracted from their school work by an empty rumbling stomach. I would argue that sitting in a stifling class room with sweat adhering the school shirt to your skin is also not conducive to strong academic performance.

My youngest was born in a heat wave and while the delivery room was air-conditioned, the recovery room wasn’t. Luckily I was forewarned and along with the diaper bag, personal change of clothes, and my own pillow, we carted along a large electric fan to the hospital and while I was only there for 24 hours or so, I had no intention of taking on post-partum recovery and a heatwave at the same time. I’m tough, but not that tough.

The Commission des normes, de l'équité, de la santé et de la sécurité du travail (CNESST) has legal guidelines for acceptable conditions in a work environment taking into account temperature, thermal radiation and air velocity which, at 50 per cent humidity, range from 23 to 26° in summer. We already surpassed that on the second day of school.

Climate change is happening whether we accept it or not and it’s unrealistic to expect every public school student or patient in one of the many older but still operational medical facilities bring electric fans along simply in order to function.

So, along with the proposed $15 minimum wage, free dental care and higher education, and promises of a new health minister, let’s hear what the politicians are promising for the very people who will be paying for their pensions as they sit in what will likely be relative retirement comfort – our kids.

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