Sweltering Summer: Cooling Effect on Lives and Wallets

As temperatures rise, consumerism declines.

Thermal infrared satellite data measured by NASA’s Landsat Enhanced Thematic Mapper Plus. Image courtesy NASA/GSFC/MITI/ERSDAC/JAROS, and U.S./Japan ASTER Science Team.


Summer in the city is a litmus test. Cities trap in the heat and become ovens. There are those who leave and those who stay. The sweat that the rich can't bear filters them out. Those who stay, whether by choice or not, are left to have a summer that is largely stifling but also a little sticky and sexy.

Summer as a season fills up my videogame-green-energy-bar that I live off of the rest of the year, creatively, mentally, and physically. I like being able to see and stroke my skin—to hug my body in the morning when it’s not drowning in layers. To be forced to move slower so as not to overheat. Interactions with strangers play out differently; the heat cuts out some small talk—people jump quicker into the thick of what’s really on their minds. Layers are shed in multiple senses.

I thrive in this season and struggle in the winter so much. Someone could just put me to sleep through winter. I yearn for the appearance of a leaf on a tree so bad that I’ve started to fetishize the color green. I’ve tried writing down quotes from books about the beauty of winter, getting excited about cooking stews, and how to be with fewer hours of daylight, but nothing does it. I have yet to hack it.

“Those who stay, whether by choice or not, are left to have a summer that is largely stifling but also a little sticky and sexy.”

Summer, meanwhile, becomes more unbearable with its persistent heat waves. Sometimes I not only feel but can see a visible heat haze through the air. Whether because of the temperature or the quality of the air, many are required to stay indoors at times. The bug populations change; some have begun to disappear, while there are always more mosquitoes. AC units suck out all the cool air from the street, blast back out even hotter air, and everything gets hotter. The weather patterns are more erratic. Summer is killer, literally. It’s also killer in my enjoyment of it. It feels like such a starkly different life than the rest of the year.

It's in the sweltering heat that I feel the volume and sight of consumerism quiet down, especially in cities such as New York. The heat brings out foul smells in the air. There’s less facade to the perfectly put-together outfit, because you probably will—I certainly do—sweat through it. I’ve named my boob sweat ‘angel wings’ for how the patches form between the boob and rib cage. There's not the abyss of obscenely expensive winter coats draping off of people’s bodies that I can’t help but gaze at. Summer clothes cost less. If someone’s outfit is expensive, I can’t tell, and I don’t care because there’s so much more life preoccupying my mind. Those that would wear the outfits that glare in cost at my eyeballs have probably left, and everyone who remains is who I’m more inclined to want to spend time getting to know.

“It's in the sweltering heat that I feel the volume and sight of consumerism quiet down, especially in cities such as New York.”

In the summer, I don't wake up every day wanting to cry about the state of my bank account, even if I should still be crying about it. New York has lightly-unofficially begun to be a bit more blasé about its open container laws in certain parks. There’s no need to contend with the pressure to keep spending money so as to hold onto a table and stay inside a food or drink establishment. Instead, there are parks. Parks also mean making fewer choices about what kind of bar or cafe you want to be in. Choices about where to spend time can make arranging your social life feel unnervingly close to your work life. Less awkwardness and mitigating amongst friends about what spaces can accommodate people's budgets and needs. The parks are everyone’s gardens, hosting birthday parties, barbecues, gatherings of all sorts wherever it seems fit. And then there’s the beach. I don’t feel like I’ve lost my whole day when I leave the office, as there are still hours until sunset. I love summer even with its concerning unsafe heat because everyday life doesn't feel as drowning in consumerist spending and capitalism.

In The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity, David Graeber and David Wengrow wrote about the different ways of living in early human societies to highlight the many existing possibilities for changing how societies are structured currently. They reference seasonal living from the late Ice Age up until the twentieth century across several societies, focusing on Nambikwara, Inuit, and Kwakiutl indigenous societies that adopted differing approaches to seasonal variations in social and political life. In these societies, political leaders rotated depending on the wet or dry season. People’s work, the structure of their day, and sometimes even their names changed depending on the season.

Operating societies the same way year-round, regardless of the season, is obscene. Each season is an entirely different beast in what it demands from governance: how days are structured, how space is engaged with, when it’s best to be active, and when it’s best to rest. There is, of course, the siesta, and many places observe hours of rest during peak heat hours in the day. My life substantially varies seasonally in my mind. In reality, it does socially, and I like life best in the heat.

More Articles: