Sunday, April 9, 2023

#99 / Bells Are Tolling In The Killer Heat


In February, Mother Jones carried a story headlined, "How a Wayward Teen Lost His Life in the Phoenix Heat." It is a pretty horrible story:

Caleb Blair entered the Circle K gas station in Phoenix asking for help. “I can’t breathe, I’m hot, I need to sit down. I can’t breathe,” he told the male cashier. He was sweaty, panting heavily, and struggling to stand up straight.

It was 10 June 2022 in Phoenix, Arizona, and the city was experiencing the season’s first extreme heatwave. The temperature outside was 112F and rising. The cashier told Caleb, a 19-year-old Black man, that he could not rest inside the air-conditioned store—it was against company policy. Blair had no choice but to go back outside, where CCTV footage shows him curled up on the asphalt, rolling around, distressed and struggling to breathe as cars drive in and out of the parking lot.
Nina Lakhani, reporting in The Guardian, provides more on this horrible incident, and makes clear what we all need to understand. This is not only a story about the consequences of an uncharitable treatment of people of color (it is that, of course, but not only that). This is a story about global warming, and what it means for everyone:
The Arizona teen whose death in extreme heat is a warning of tragic things to come
Lakhani, without making the connection, is reminding us of what John Donne wrote: 
Each man's death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.
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