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Weekly Features
Letter from New York
Mathew Tombers is Managing Director of Intermat, Inc., ( a television company which executive produces programs and consults with industry companies on a variety of issues. Intermat, Inc. is currently involved in approximately thirty hours of television in various stages for a variety of networks. He is one of the Executive Producers of OFF TO WAR, a ten hour series for Discovery Times and for a one hour on international adoptions for Discovery Health. He has consulted a variety of companies, including Ted Turner Documentaries, WETA, Betelgeuse Productions, and Creation Films, Lou Reda Productions as well as many others.

Letter From New York: An American Experience
By Mat Tombers

July 31, 2006

Tombers reports on: Living When It is Hot as H**L

When I was growing up in Minneapolis, Minnesota I seem to recall the term “Dog Days of Summer” applied to the miserable last weeks of August when the heat and humidity were finally taking their toll on everyone’s nerves. So it was with some surprise I saw the current heat wave described as the “Dog Days of Summer” by some newspaper reports; it was certainly, I thought, too early for the “Dog Days of Summer.” When they came, it meant I had to go back to school.

Next to the volatility in the Mid-east [he said, understatedly], the big news in the country has been the heat wave and its consequences. The plight of the Queens 100,000 without power has been well documented across the country. Lest you think we are unique, out in St. Louis, 80,000 are sweltering without power. Earlier this summer in upstate New York, it looked like crops were going to drown; now there is a desperate need for irrigation to save the crops from incinerating.

I knew it was bad when I got an e-mail from a friend in Portland, Oregon, who hoped I was not suffering as much as he: it was 105 degrees there. I had to read that one a couple of times as it was hard to conceive of 105 in Portland.

For the first time in history, both Northern and Southern California are suffering under a mutual siege of heat, fierce enough that it is stretching the resources of the power grid, resulting in warnings about power usage. Out in America’s breadbasket, thousands of farm animals have died, milk production is down by 15% and sunburn red seems to be the color of choice.

For those of you who follow celebrities, Lindsay Lohan was rushed from the set of her newest movie to be treated for overheating and dehydration. Never fear, she will return to the set.

We are not alone in our suffering. Tim Sparke, a friend and colleague in London has been sweltering in his office for days now; almost no one has central air in London – it simply doesn’t get that hot. But it has. Paris and Berlin, along with London, are having heat waves that are bringing top temperatures close to those experienced in places like Bangkok and Singapore. High temperature records are being regularly broken. In case we have forgotten, only three years ago 15,000 died in France of heat related causes. As California is stretched for power, so are France and other European countries just now discovering air conditioning. The crop losses experienced by Americans is being mirrored and bettered by the losses in Europe, with Germany about to lose 50% of its crops in some hard hit regions.

The days are slowly growing shorter but there is still a long way to go until the summer ends. While there are those that deny Global Warming others are warming to the need to do something about it. I was pleased to read in USA Today that nearly 6% of new U.S. construction was “green” including a spectacular waterfront development in the currently overheated Portland area.

Recently I wrote about the crushing of GM’s electric cars and so was heartened to read that others are holding high the torch and are working to introduce new lines of electric vehicles, including a “city car” [made in China] which costs $9,000.

It is not just a local problem; it is a national and international problem. Heat has become a major concern of nations all over the world. Within years the summer season may be more challenging for European utilities than the winters as our European cousins adopt air conditioning. The challenges of energy needs have and are affecting us all and are affected by every bit of good or bad news anywhere, particularly in the Mideast, which has broken out a new war to rattle us. The signs of “green” construction and resurgence in electric vehicles [which have had more lives than cats] are hopeful signs in depressing times.