Rafael Velasquez pressing a cold water bottle to his face. Photograph by Juan Arrendondo.

Journal Entry 9/20/21

Reading: “This Is Inequity at the Boiling Point,” by Somini Sengupta for the New York Times.

Key ideas: Climate change. Extreme heat/heat waves. Poverty. Marginalized identities/people of color. Inequity in terms of access to cooling resources, methods of prevention from the heat, access to water, etc. Global impact. The Covid-19 pandemic.

Main argument: Heat has significantly increased by the decade for the past 60 years with 2020 as one of the hottest years ever. However, for poor and marginalized communities around the world, extreme heat has a much greater impact on them than those who are able to access resources such as shelter, air conditioners and water. While Sengupta touches on this briefly, another side of this argument could include the government’s failure (or poor response) to assist communities during these extreme heat conditions.

“You might be unable to afford an air-conditioner, and you might not even have electricity when you need it. You may have no choice but to work outdoors under a sun so blistering that first your knees feel weak and then delirium sets in. Or the heat might bring a drought so punishing that, no matter how hard you work under the sun, your corn withers and your children turn to you in hunger. It’s not like you can just pack up and leave.”

Somini Sengupta

Evidence: Sengupta provides various forms of evidence to support her argument such as interviews with families and individuals, data visuals, photography, maps and studies and research on issues of climate change and covid-19. At the conclusion, Sengupta explains just how intertwined climate change is with factors like age, race, inequality and poverty, especially during the pandemic.

“In the United States, heat kills older people more than any other extreme weather event, including hurricanes, and the problem is part of an ignominious national pattern: Black people and Latinos like Mr. Velasquez are far more likely to live in the hottest parts of American cities.”

Somini Sengupta

Sengupta strengthens these points by citing data collected by the City of New York, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and academic studies. Not only does this provide readers with current evidence, but it allows them to understand the true gravity of climate change and the impact it has on specific communities and individuals. As a result, evidence serves as a powerful tool that both supports and illustrates Sengupta’s arguments.

Visual impact: The visuals included throughout this piece are a critical part of Sengupta’s ability to collect, craft and convey the story to readers in a way that informs and evokes emotion. Ranging from landscape to portrait photography, the visuals readers interact with while scrolling though the piece provide an important glimpse into the reality of these communities around the world. In order to understand how an article’s visuals impact the story, I often imagine the story without visuals at all and wonder: Is the story still engaging? Are the words powerful enough to stand on their own? What emotions does this story leave me with? In the case of Sengupta’s article, I feel that it is much more powerful with visuals than without because the words compliment the photos perfectly and vice versa.

Questions raised: While Sengupta never explicitly asked questions, I feel that the article did raise a few questions regarding climate change and its impact on marginalized communities. Here are the questions I took from the reading:

  • If heat is considered an “occupational health hazard,” by the International Labor Organization, how can fields such as construction work to better take care of employees without risking significant economic losses? In other words, how can societies balance the health and well-being of employees with economic growth?
  • How can we decrease greenhouse gases on a global scale?
  • If climate models can predict future dry periods, how can we help farmers continue to harvest?
  • How can city programs better accommodate seniors who are isolated?