How We Were Made

Disabled people face some of the greatest risks from the climate crisis — but what does "ability" really mean?

How We Were Made
Photograph by Isa Rus

LISTENING: the lull of Billie Eilish's voice
ready for dinner
my latest collage dry on my desk

We're all born with our own abilities. That word — ability — is an interesting one. It derives from the word "able."

Merriam-Webster (my preferred dictionary) defines "able" as this:

having sufficient power, skill, or resources to do something
having the freedom or opportunity to do something
having a quality or nature that makes something possible

Power. Freedom. Possibility.

These are the words that come back to "able." It's fascinating when we consider the reality of disabled folks, who — by this definition — don't have the power or skills or resources to do something. For some, that may be the ability to walk or talk or hear or see.

But they have many other abilities. What they need is the freedom to enact them — the possibility to pursue them.

Welcome to Possibilities, a creative climate newsletter on the possibilities that lie where crisis meets community. I’m Yessenia Funes, an environmental justice journalist who realized her reporting was missing a key group: disabled people.

That's why my latest story for Atmos digs into the extreme heat impacts on this community. As a reporter focused on the most vulnerable, I'm always questioning whom even I have ignored so far in my work. Disabled people face tremendous risk during the sorts of heat waves that have been breaking temperatures across the globe.

You'll want to read my in-depth piece for Atmos to understand the intricacies of why, but I will say this: I sweated on my daily walk today, and though I hate the feeling of being covered in sweat, I can appreciate that my body is working wonders to cool me down in the heat. Many disabled people's bodies can't do that.

How many of us pause to appreciate the miracles our bodies are capable of? How many of us consider that we could've been born under different circumstances? That the comfort of tomorrow isn't promised?

I believe that we were all made for some purpose — and that includes disabled folks. We all deserve the chance to enjoy our lives to the fullest extent. 🌀

Rest in Power

While we can't say for certain that climate change led to these specific weather events (we need attribution studies for that), we do know that the Earth's rising temperatures are already creating more disasters like these.

On Thursday last week, a bad landslide was responsible for the deaths of at least 27 people in India.

Heavy rains caused floods and landslides that killed at least seven people in Bhutan.

Floods over the weekend killed at least 31 people in Afghanistan.

The bodies of five deceased sub-Saharan migrants were found Monday along the Libya and Tunisia border.

In the U.S., two women died on a hike in a Nevada state park. Authorities believe heat may be to blame.

Arizona's record-breaking heat ended the life of Dario Mendoza, a 26-year-old father and farmworker who deserved better.

In Sicily, at least three people have died from wildfires. In Algeria, the death toll sits at 34. In Greece, two pilots combatting the flames have died.

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