Foreign media reports a couple of weeks ago alleged that temperatures of 40 to 45 degrees centigrade were forcing people in parts of Europe out of their homes to seek cooler means to cool down their body temperatures including spending longer hours in malls.

Southern France, for example, was said to have reached a record 45.9 degrees centigrade, the highest recorded temperature and there was panic all over. The weather service had even issued a red alert for four southern areas while the rest of the country remained on orange alert, said to be the second highest level.

In some parts of Spain, the reports indicated that firefighters were battling some worst wildfires in 20 years with some provinces on red alert as temperatures rose to 42 degrees. Heat stroke was reported to have been claiming several lives. Meanwhile, Italy also reported emergency levels of heat in 16 cities while Germany, France, Poland and the Czech Republic had recorded their highest ever June temperatures.

With the heat wave sweeping through Europe and the uncomfortable weather their citizens are going through, I am struggling to recollect if, in my over six decades of life in this country, we have ever had an orange alert more so a red alert due to heat waves. So those of us living in the tropics must count our blessings for the enduring spirit that see us through all year round in rising temperatures. Quite often in the months before the rainy season and also from September through to the harmattan period in December, we go through some uncomfortable heat wave, never parting with handkerchiefs or hand towels to wipe off constant sweat and we live with it.  

We do moan about excessive heat sometimes but red and orange alerts may be new to us. We seem to have been saved from the kind of traumas countries in the northern hemisphere go through when just a month of heat waves sweep through their territories. So we have something to hold on to after all and good to know that the pasture is not always greener at the other end. There is certainly a reason to be content with what we have and rather strive to maximise the opportunities that come our way with a whole year of sunshine.  Something we either ignore or keep taking for granted.

Free and underutilised tropical sunshine

We are blessed with predictable sunshine all year round and with which we could do many things. However, we do not seem to utilise fully the opportunities that the sun avails to us those twelve months. We have the sun to dry and preserve nature, a whole lot of foods for future consumption. When our grandmothers did not know the refrigerator or deep freezer, preservation of food was done with the sun’s abundant rays. Also, health experts do remind us that vitamin D which others have to pay for from drug stores is freely available to us from the sun. So for 365 days in a year, we have a free and abundant supply of vitamin D for our bodies.

Our farmers have both the sun and rains to till their lands and sew in abundance for a plentiful harvest. Our plants, fruits and vegetables are blessed with the sunshine they need to mature or ripen naturally. We are blessed with hydropower but even more freely at our doorstep is energy from the sun to produce solar power for domestic and commercial use. Unfortunately, we do not see the manifold blessing here or if we do, we do not utilise it to our benefit, not even to light our dark streets and alleys.  

Those who enjoy the sunshine for only three months of the year have invested in solar energy jealously harvesting the sun as and when it becomes available to them three months in the year to use as alternative sources of power. We have it for 12 months but solar power is relatively new to us. Regrettably, our universities and scientists have failed us in that direction.

We are blessed with adequate sunshine to dry our laundry free of charge. Others have to pay for energy to be able to dry their laundry in driers. Relatives and friends residing outside come home to seek some warmth from the sun to heal their arthritic joints. What more can we ask for?

It is time to reflect on the blessings we have at hand and make use of them. Sunshine is inexhaustible. If for nothing at all, one is guaranteed their vitamin D which is available free of charge. Can we begin to count our blessings, naming free all-year-round sunshine as one of them?