A response to the article “Earth is overheating. Millions are already feeling the pain.” by Somini Sengupta
In “Earth is overheating. Millions are already feeling the pain” by Somini Sengupta, the author discusses how the effects of climate change are being felt by poor and marginalized communities throughout the world. Sengupta showcases the hardships faced by these communities through personal accounts from individuals and families spanning the globe. The piece features accounts from people in Greece, Texas, Nigeria, Guatemala, India and New York. Sengupta creates a picture of those who are suffering the most from climate change, while also suffering from the prejudice and discrimination of society at the same time.
By using six personalized anecdotes, Segupta is able to weave together a story of racial and class climate injustice by telling five unique but powerful stories. The stories are interwoven with larger statistics. For example, we learn the story of Eduardo Roque who lives in the Dry Corridor in Guatemala. Roque’s crops have suffered for the past three years due to drought. Although Guatemala has a tiny carbon footprint globally, “1.1 metric tons, compared with 16.5 tons per person in the United States,” the population suffers from the consequences of climate change more, as the heat rises, and many rely on crops to make an income. We take for granted how much agriculture comes out of Guatemala, and must stop to think about the effect climate change is having on the people who produce these goods. When we see produce prices rise, we groan and complain, not realizing the reason prices may be rising and who is suffering behind the scenes.
Sengupta also highlights the prejudice many are facing already, which have then been exacerbated by climate change. Hasib Hotak is a homeless refugee from Afghanistan. After multiple failed attempts to make it to Europe, he finally made it to Greece. In his attempts to stay cool going to cafes, he has been turned away because he is a refugee. After fleeing his country he now is faced with a completely new set of problems.
Sengupta also highlights the physical suffering inflicted upon these populations due to rising temperatures and natural disaster. The article mentions,“Most people can work only at half their capacity when temperatures exceed 91 degrees Fahrenheit, and exposure to many hours of heat can be fatal.” Rabita in India feels ill because of the heat and having no choice but to work a job that involves physical labor. Faith Osi also struggles to work in the heat in Nigeria. She gets headaches and has difficulty breathing in the heat. Though not working is not an option for these two women as they need to provide for their families. Rafael Velasquez in New York cannot afford air conditioning and at age 66 he is in an age bracket that is “more susceptible to heat related illness and death.” In these situations, those who are poor suffer more because they have no other choice but to keep trying to work to survive in these harsh conditions.
By using poignant visuals, we are transported to these different locations throughout the globe while reading this piece. We can feel the heat through our laptop screens. In the section about Nigeria, Sengupta writes about the methane gas flares and we are presented photos of Osi’s child named “Miracle”. The baby is covered head to toe in talcum powder to prevent heat rash highlighting the harshness of the heat, while showing a mother’s dire attempt to protect her child. There is also a photo of Osi’s two other teenage children, helping with laundry outside, and in the middle of the photo we can see one of the methane gas flares that is contributing to the unbearably hot conditions. These powerful images contribute to the effectiveness of the piece. We can see the sweat dripping down faces. We see the living conditions of Rabita’s family in India, the visual of her sleeping on the ground in the heat after working on a construction site and making half the amount of money as a man. The visuals intertwine with the text of the piece to create an image of who is suffering from this global dilemma.
The article does an excellent job in humanizing the problem of climate injustice and highlighting the suffering of those whose voices need a platform. I would like to see a response from the companies and manufacturers who employ some of these individuals. I want to know how the owner of the company in Nigeria that creates methane gas flares is able to justify their actions. I want to hear from the distribution companies who buy produce from Guatemala. I would even like to hear from the organizations who provide relief after hurricanes and during heat waves in the US to learn more about how people without internet can find a way to connect to receive proper resources. I agree with the argument Sengupta presents, but I would now like to hear a part two of the story, where the narrative is through the eyes of those who benefit economically from these suffering communities. I want to see these large corporations held accountable and I want to see how governments around he world intend to adapt to climate change to serve their people.