I’m worried. It’s nearly 124 degrees Fahrenheit in parts of India, the highest temperature ever recorded. There’s a drought across much of the country. New Delhi is the most polluted city in the world according to the organizations tracking global air quality. Indians are dying from heat related illnesses and toxic air. These facts would normally become part of the gestalt of international environmental and humanitarian crisis media reports that seem so overwhelming it’s hard to know how an individual person can help. But it’s hard to ignore India these days. I sit on the board of a humanitarian project called The India Group who works with low caste families to provide medical care and education for their children. I was there the month of February. It’s not just a country but it’s individual children and families I know who are suffering.
I know in Khujaraho where she lives, the wells have dried up and drinking water comes in government trucks. Families line up with containers to get water. It’s so hot inside the small 6 x 6 concrete room her family calls home that family members get heat boils on their skin. And because she and the rest of her family are from the farming caste, their only source of income has withered and died in the heat. More than 400 farmers across India have committed suicide out of desperation since January.
I know the overcrowded New Delhi slum where they live is not only sweltering, but the air quality levels caused by heat and dust are severe and the accompanying toxic ozone gas levels are causing permanent lung damage in some people. Children and the elderly are most vulnerable.
It’s hard to fathom what conditions must be like in this Kolkata slum that sits on the city railroad tracks. On a good day conditions are miserable. It’s 100 degrees Fahrenheit there today. To deal with the crisis schools shut down in April until further notice.
I wonder how my Kolkata friend Roju is surviving. Is it even physically possible to hand pull a rickshaw on the Kolkata streets barefoot in blistering temperatures?
Two nights ago the Seattle local and national news featured distraught downtown Seattle workers who had been inconvenienced when a faulty mechanism shut down electricity to parts of the city for an hour on a day when the outside temperature was a comfortable 65 degrees. In India people died that day from the heat and toxic air. That crisis wasn’t covered by the media. In Seattle the espresso machines were silenced for an hour. That’s the “crisis” the media chose to cover.