July 24th, 2006

ozarque figure

Living in the heat; afternote....

I've been enjoying your comments on this post -- such an incredible array of opinions and experiences and strategies! Thank you.

I just want to say three things in response....

First, I certainly agree that people vary widely in their ability to tolerate heat and or heat-and-humidity, and the reasons for that are as varied as the tolerances. (The same thing applies to tolerance for cold.)

Second, one of the reasons the heat wave has been on my mind is because I'm certain that -- unless something at least as significant as the Singularity comes along and does some megatweaking -- we're going to have a lot less choice about the degree of heat in our environment than we're used to having. There's the problem of our aging power grid and the ever-increasing burden it's supposed to bear as air conditioning in the U.S. continues to be considered as essential as running water. There's the vulnerability of that power grid to terrorist attacks. There's the high price of switching buildings to alternative power sources (and price is not the only barrier). There's the fact that the elderly are more vulnerable to heat, and the percentage of our population that's elderly is steadily increasing along with lifespans. There's the seeming indifference of builders to the idea that it should be possible to survive in a building if the power goes off. And then there's global warming, which is going to make a lot of places far hotter than the people living there are used to. It seems to me that we're going to need new strategies (and the re-learning of a lot of old strategies) for dealing with this situation, and we may need them a lot sooner than we think.

And third, I wanted to tell you about another antiquated strategy for coping with heat that hasn't been mentioned yet. Before air conditioning, groups of friends and/or relatives [relatives are not always friends, but they do tend to visit] would go to rivers and creeks and find a shallow place -- a low-water ford was ideal for the purpose -- and just sit down in the water in their clothes and spend a pleasant hour or two socializing. We took off only our shoes and stockings, and we dressed for the occasion in something that wouldn't be ruined by a drenching. Much fun, and very comfortable.
ozarque figure

Personal note; creeks and rivers and their banks....

About what people may and may not legally do in and on creeks and rivers and their banks in the U.S., I recommend reading the material at http://www.nationalrivers.org/us-law-who-owns.htm . For example, there's this useful section:

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31. What happens when riverside landowners go to court?

The feeling of being invaded by trespassers strikes a deep emotional chord in many a rural landowner who has a river flowing through his land. Some landowners tend to lump all river users together, including those who canoe quietly down the middle of the river, those who stand quietly on the bank, those who stay on or near the river but litter and make noise, and those who proceed well away from the river onto private land where they break into cabins and commit various offenses. One landowner told a local newspaper, "This is a kind of trend to socialism. They want the right to use property owners' property without paying for it."

We have read a number of court decisions from cases where riverside landowners passionately sought to protect their private property rights. The cases vary, of course, but here are some of the usual key features: The landowner's property deed, a legal document, doesn't say that the river is public. He figures that even if the court decides that it is public, he will have the basis for a claim of "taking" of private property, contrary to the U.S. Constitution. He may retain an attorney who thinks that only larger rivers are navigable. They assume, logically enough, that to qualify as "navigable" a river would have to be reasonably deep, so they get a geologist or hydrologist to testify that the river has spots so shallow that most boats would run aground.

After much time and money spent on depositions and motions, the courts rule against them. The courts may find that state law alone is sufficient to allow river recreation. Or they may find that the federal test of navigability for title purposes is broad enough to include the river in question. They may bring in the Public Trust Doctrine as well. Since there is no scientific test of navigability, the courts may set aside the geologist's lengthy testimony about the shallowness of the river, and instead rely on the simple testimony of local canoeists that the river is useful for canoeing.
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[There's a river on three sides of the peninsula we live on, and we have had the opportunity to become familiar with all of the types of "river users" mentioned in the first paragraph of #31.]