DANGER: The Sun will Melt Your Community!

Undeniably – at least here on the West Coast – summer has arrived. And, for 99% of the population, the sunny days of May, June, July, August, and some of September make for an “enjoyable” and/or “the best” part of peoples’ year. Today, though, I’d like to talk about the 1% – or less – of people who truly dislike summer. In this group you’ve got your goths, vampires, body-self-conscious-folks, ice-fisher-people, and senior citizens (but, really, they don’t like any season because of how young people today have ruined it). Also included in the 1% are people like me, who are both terrified of and angry with Mr. Sun because we are allergic to him.

The condition is called porphyria. It is very rare and was made famous by vampires and King George III, who allegedly “went mad” on account of his Sun disorder (as it turns out, monarchs have to be outside a lot). Fun fact: King George III was the guy who “lost” the American colonies to a group of tempestuous oligarchs, and the United Kingdom has been pretty much anti-Sun ever since.

There are different kinds of prophyria out there, and the one I was lucky to win in the crappy-disease-lottery is called eurythropoietic protoporphyria, which means that, because of extremely heightened photo-sensitivity, the porphyrins in my blood react very, very badly to ultraviolet rays – I describe this way: “it’s like being sun-burned from the inside-out – basically my blood boils, my energy is sapped, and, if it gets bad enough, a chain reaction of swelling, sores, scabbing, and scarring will put me out of commission for a few days.” For me, summer is a time of war against an unbeatable nemesis. His name is Apollo and, cloudy or not, he meets me for battle every single day.

For the record and with full disclosure, I have a very, very mild case of porphyria – there are folks out there who can’t go outside during a full moon, even with SPF 60 sunscreen.

So why am I telling you this? Well, the world being too hot and sunny is one of the biggest problems facing our global community these days. In the middle of our planet – and for a myriad of human and natural reasons – desertification is slowly eroding lush greenery and the water sources and two/four-legged food that make it a habitable place. With the greenery gone so goes most, if not all, of the natural shade. Such an inhospitable environment creates climate refugees – people who have to travel North or South in search of, well, let’s just call it “shade from the Sun” and let that be a metaphor we can all understand. More or less.

So, such is the case today in places like Sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and Australia. But what about here, in Cascadia, twenty years from now? How will we cope with hotter, sunnier summers?

From me (a guy who has the superhuman ability to find shade and protect himself from the Sun) to you (a person who probably knows what suntanning feels like), here are some tips on how you can prepare for the future:

  1. Invest in a wide-brimmed hat. Cowboy, Tilly, Pirate, or Sombrero – they’re all good and they will all be in high demand in the future; start your stockpile today!
  2. Make friends with tall people. Tall people are automatic shade-makers. Enough said.
  3. Buy or make a UV-proof umbrella and/or tarp. Cool, shady brands like No Zone aside, such inventions are, sadly, few and far between; using umbrellas to ward off harmful UV rays is already popular in Asia and Africa, so you can start the trend here on the West Coast with one of these fine designs.
  4. Long sleeves, long pants and gloves. Let’s face it, gloves are cool and historically sexy – since Pharaohs sought to protect themselves from dust, Sun and slaves, gloves have been a part of out cultural fabric. Wearing them here and now might feel weird at first, but you’ll get used to it.
  5. “The Full Ninja” (pictured). Pictures say a thousand words, and this happy little outfit has gotten me through hikes, camping and road trips, as well as a jaunt through East Africa.

John and his friend, Sun-worshiper Natalie, on a summer hike across Nootka Island on the West Coast

So there it is. With this knowledge in your toolkit, I think and hope, you will be well-prepared to cope with the Sun. Now, if you’ll excuse me, it takes a bit of time to layer-myself-up for the walk from my office to the bus stop.

And, believe me when I say this, friends, whether it’s tomorrow or a billion years from now, the Sun has a pretty clear and transparent plan to engulf us all in giant balls of fiery death. I recommend you start planning for tomorrow today.

Good luck. And have fun with it.

Masthead photo courtesy of White93 on Flickr