Wildfires devastate Turkey and Greece. Credit: Felton Davis (Flickr)

How I experienced the record-breaking heat waves in Southern Europe

By Su Aydin

International student Su recalls her summer in Turkey, as heat waves and wildfires affected the daily lives of locals and tourists.

Whenever I tell my friends how warm it gets back home in Turkey, they always say they wish they could also have such warm weather without having to travel for it. While I find it sad that Scottish summer is basically just three random days of sun followed by weeks of rain, I think I might just prefer that over the endless amount of heat waves I experienced this summer. After my one-week honeymoon phase with warm weather, I cannot stand the 30-degree weather, which turns a pint lukewarm in seconds. Although I normally enjoy sunny summers at home, what has been happening in Southern Europe over recent years is simply not normal.

The heat this summer made it impossible to enjoy many things I was looking forward to. Spending two weeks in Istanbul where the temperature got up to 35°C felt like I was at hell’s reception, but my personal record this summer, 47°C in Southern Turkey, made me believe that I have passed the reception and entered hell itself. Like most people, I had to delay or cancel plans, because it wouldn’t get cool enough to go outside – even after sunset. We also had to be aware of the wildfires raging very close to where we live. Hearing daily announcements that there is a wildfire risk has become our new normal, although it never should have. For as long as I can remember, the Greek and the Turkish governments have been under public scrutiny due to their insufficient responses to wildfires and this summer was no different, with both locals and tourists not knowing what to do in case of a fire.

However, my experience is only a privileged portion of how climate change is affecting the Mediterranean region. The locals who live in touristic areas earn a large portion of their income from tourism and agriculture, which require working long hours in the scorching heat. The cheap holidays packages significantly increase the population of these areas whilst the resources and funding provided from respective governments remain the same. Nobody likes a heatwave, but there is a big difference between getting to sip your drinks by the pool to escape the heat and having to work under the very same heat. It is crucial that governments protect their citizens from these hellish conditions. No hate to tourists though, it is truly a shame that they don’t get to enjoy everything this region has to offer.

According to the UN Environment Programme, the Mediterranean region is warming 20% faster than the global average, but most countries in Southern Europe fail to take action in preventing the tragedies that take place every year. Here in the Mediterranean, we have good weather, great food, and amazing nature, but unfortunately, we are unlucky in terms of competent and transparent governments. Even small things, such as leaving food and water outside for stray animals depends on individuals, but individual action is not enough to take care of our communities – whether it’s a cat, a family member or a tourist. Looking back at this summer, what’s even worse than the heat was witnessing the lack of effort to prevent these tragedies summer after summer.

It would be easy to hope for less hellish summers in the future, but this was still the coolest summer we will have for the rest of our lives.


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