I am sitting in my warm, cozy studio apartment in Chicago while the temperature outside continues to drop. This week, Chicago is experiencing a string of days with below zero temperatures to the point of creating safety concerns for its residents and millions of other people outside of the city limits. On one of those days, there is the possibility that the extreme cold will shatter several records including the coldest high temperature on record in Chicago. Many businesses are closing, and warming centers are doing their best to promote their services to minimize that devastation such cold can bring. I even temporarily disrupted my mail service and bought groceries in advance, so I didn’t have to subject some delivery driver to the brutal chill for the sake of my own convenience.
The extreme cold is forcing me to stay inside for several days without the need to leave my apartment. That is situation I am not really accustomed to as I do enjoy getting out and walking around, if only for a few minutes. However, as my weekly commitments such as my music class and volunteer shift get cancelled, I take it as a sign to just tough it out and enjoy the solitude and hiss of my radiator heat.
Though, getting cabin fever is not the only thing I have thought about concerning the weather. Extreme cold like this comes around ever few years. I remember the last polar vortices in 2013 and 2014 when a half inch of ice formed on the side of my window because the temperature differences between outside and inside were so vast. These kinds of cold spells are an inconvenience, but they were the type of problem that only came about every few years. Now, they happen with more frequency and intensity.
What concerns me most about this weather is that it is indicative of our environmental crisis. What is proving to be the largest humanitarian issue in recent history, that has contributed to horrendous situations like the Syrian refugee crisis and more devastating hurricanes, climate change is an undeniable threat.
By nature, I am not a doomsday kind of person. However, I don’t carry the same level of confidence I typically have when it comes to the matter of climate change. I feel this way because I think we have missed multiple opportunities to save this planet but are now left with the increasingly abysmal effects of climate change. Through humanity’s greed and inability to come up with a solution that is not centered around profit, we have failed future generations who will inherit this planet.
I cannot stand the opinion that the extreme weather conditions currently moving across the U.S. are not a reflection of poor environmental policy. It is a level of ignorance, and perhaps maliciousness in some cases, that I do not care to hear or entertain. With all the evidence that exists about the serious threat climate change poses, I cannot help but think that actively dismissing it signifies one’s complicit attitude towards the deaths attributed to natural and environmental disasters. I am feeling so angry as I type this.
As I look out the window, I know that people will die. Major cold fronts have occurred and will continue to do so, but there is a larger systemic issue at hand; one that will result in stronger and more frequent weather phenomenon and which also ignores how the most vulnerable and marginalized of society will be affected. Libraries are a wonderful institution because they serve as a shelter to those who need it. However, they do close. The people who rely on them will have to leave, and a few may never return.
Released on the studio album HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book I in 1995, “Earth Song” is Michael Jackson’s first song to specifically address the issues facing our environment. After a string of social conscious singles, the lyrics and music video for “Earth Song” paints a stunning portrait of the devastation our planet has and will continue to face unless major environmental policies are enacted. What I like about this song is that it specifically calls out the effects of humanity’s greed. It is a song that requires you to look into the mirror and understand that silence on the matter is death.
The U.S. government opened this week after the financial shutdown ended on Friday. For over a month, various regulatory commissions and institutions were unable to carry out their duties. We are expected to see an increase in foodborne illnesses. Intruders trashed and wreaked havoc across multiple state parks. The president joked about the cold asking for global warming to come back. If our government cannot run effectively, then it fails as an institution and government interference and cooperation is the only way to enact environmental policies with actual results. However, with bullshit issues like border security, our leaders put people at risk when it comes to issues that really matter. Issues that are proving to be deadly, costly, and irreversible.