Nostalgic for the 80’s

By Andrew Turbill

Andrew Turbill is a wildlife naturalist, environmental educator & writer for Centre for Ecological Learning.

Remember the 80’s? Remember when the future was still coming?  I do.  I vividly remember sitting in the voluminous folds of my grand-parents’ huge leather lounge (not unlike what it might feel like to recline into a massive leathery rendition of Mick Jaggers lips) while we watched Towards 2000 on the ABC (before the Lib’s gutted it).  They wowed us with hectic stuff like electric toothbrushes, retractable seatbelts and microwave ovens. It was eye-watering stuff. Hell, back in the 80’s my mates and I thought Commodore 64 gaming cartridges were a gift from an advanced alien civilisation.

And then came Beyond 2000… and the future kept getting delayed.

Eventually though the elusive future did seem to arrive…before retiring into the rear-view mirror of my childhood where everything suffers that weird Doppler Effect of accelerating memory shortening. I’m not saying I LOVED the 80’s, but I kinda loved the 80’s.

In the 80’s we didn’t get days like last Sunday.

Last Sunday was a decidedly unpleasant little affair.  By mid-morning Floyd’s trusty weather station boasted an outside air temperature as 44.8C and 54% humidity. I spent much of that morning entering search terms into my browser like: “at what temperature does a person die?” and “best industrial-strength fan”). My body felt like decaying roadkill, it was bloody awful.

It was also dangerous and worthy of an episode of Towards 2100. 

Ever heard of a thing called the “effective temperature”? It combines air temp with humidity.  Think of it as more a measure of the state of your armpits than just a temperature reading. Even Jason Bourne can’t survive for more than a couple of hours without aircon in an effective temperature of 35C.

We literally cook ourselves to death. In 2010 a heatwave with an effective temperature of just 28 degrees killed 10,000’s of people in Russia.

Last Sunday the effective temperature on my veranda was 35.9 C.  And it remained close to that well into the evening. Deadly, and not in a culturally vernacular good way.

If we keep voting to prioritise franking credits and sporting club upgrades over planetary repair, by the end of the century more that half of the places where people now live are forecast to be uninhabitable due to excessive heat stress.

The future really did arrive, and it keeps on arriving.  But sometimes I pine for a foregone age where a person could relax on their veranda in early December without fear of being cooked to death. You know what I mean?