Are we cancelling summer?


This is becoming another summer that didn’t quite happen. It follows the bum summer of 2020, which was canceled by COVID-19.

In the West this year, summer is literally going up in smoke. Wildfires from Southern California to Washington state are burning out of control and clouding skies as far away as New England. The West Coast is seeing extreme drought, extreme flooding and extreme heat. But isn’t that everywhere, to some extent?

The carefree days of frolicking outside have been revoked throughout the country’s midsection as horrid heat descends from the Northern Rockies through the Deep South. Arizona turns ovenlike in a typical summer, but this one is so hot that a high school football camp had to move its activities indoors.

This year shows that chaos wreaked by climate change is upon us for sure. We’ve seen evidence of it in freaky weather for several years now, but the summer of 2021 has clenched it. The disruptions are here to stay.

In Florida, there’s some debate over the role warming temperatures may have played in the shocking collapse of the condo building in Surfside. What’s not up for debate, however, is that rising sea levels are endangering beachfront structures. The really bad news is that in 30 short years, much of Miami could be underwater, not that real estate developers seem to have noticed.

Warmer water is pushing more sharks north. An invasion of sharks recently forced some of Long Island’s beloved summer beaches to close temporarily.

Summer used to be a time for lowering the political heat, at least until Labor Day. No more. Last summer, we who saw Donald Trump’s presidency as a threat to the country agonized over his possible reelection.

Happily, that danger passed, and we have a normal executive branch in Washington. But this summer, we are witnessing the extraordinary spectacle of Trump dead-enders mocking the Capitol Police their cohorts attacked and killed on Jan. 6. And no, I’m not going to amplify with quotes of the idiocy voiced by some of the extraordinary cynics employed by Fox News.

This is the summer that there was an Olympics and no one came, at least in comparison with four years ago. NBC’s audience for the Tokyo Olympics has been down by as much as 36%. Some of the loss in viewership reflects continued competition by online streaming services. But the arenas Japan kept empty in response to a spike in coronavirus cases also drained the events of drama and excitement.

Simone Biles has nothing to prove to me. The spectacular gymnast remains an uncontested superpower whether she chose to compete in the Olympics or pulled out as she did. I can sympathize with her concern that the stress was getting to her. The postponement of the Olympics due to COVID-19 had put many elite athletes’ schedules off-kilter. And several have complained that the loss of noisy crowds depleted their performances of energy.

But, really, no one has to participate in these intensely competitive events. (I know I couldn’t take the pressure.) Many do it for the glory and the riches that product endorsements may bring them. But that’s the deal, and they accept it voluntarily.

In recent years, I’ve pulled back on watching the Olympics, but I would have tuned in this year for Biles. Oh, well.

Early on, I referred to the summer of 2020 as the summer of COVID-19. In places where vaccination rates are low, this is another summer of COVID-19. Where I am, it’s not, certainly not like last year. But it’s still a summer of weird weather, political instability and rising violent crime.

Anyone out there having fun? Hope so.

By Paul Wager