Summer has been in full swing for weeks and it seems that every day we hear how several hundred people were rushed to the hospitals due to heat exhaustion and sun stroke. The ambulance sirens have blared almost non-stop for weeks, but why is this? With all of the air conditioned buildings and underground walkways in Japan, one would think that people would have a plethora of options to escape the stifling heat and humidity waiting for us outside. It seems that, just like the people who get themselves into trouble by going outside ill-prepared for the weather, Japan has brought this excessive heat problem upon itself.
Endless expanses of concrete can be seen anywhere people congregate. The few large parks placed at various places around the city often have some combination of concrete and brick walkways, and pebbled paths. Trees are confined to concrete pots, unable to breathe. And empty lots have bare foundations that lay exposed to the sun, collecting and reflecting heat during the day and later radiating it all night.
Thinking back to my youth, when people in Canada complained about the hot summers it was because the heat was coming only from the sun. Resting in the shade offered some relief. This is not the case in Japan, though, as the heat comes from both above and below. In areas protected by a larger amount of shade, we're defeated by the humidity. There is no relief. Add this to the fact that we use a lot of machinery that releases heat into the atmosphere, and it's easy to see why people in the 21st century are less able to cope with the season than our ancestors.
But what's the solution?
Maybe we can get a little less concrete and a little more grass. Plant life can reflect a great deal of heat as well, but it's nowhere near as offensive as the concrete jungle we've surrounded ourselves in. Heck, this might even make our dull and lifeless cities look more inviting and friendly.
It's worth a shot.