No Peace in a Freeze

As the U.S. plunges into a deep freeze, not everyone gets to stay warm.

No Peace in a Freeze
Photograph by Alecio Ferrari / Instagram

LISTENING: to my air purifier go off
FEELING: behind on work!
SEEING: my little kitty clean himself

If there's one thing we're going to talk about in this newsletter, it's the weather. This week has been a wild one in that realm. The U.S. has been experiencing freezing weather all over. Meteorologists have been calling this an "Arctic blast" because the air is flowing from the northern Arctic region. The bitter temperatures have been felt from Oregon to New York.

While my niece has been ecstatic to finally play outside in the snow, the same can't be said for many others who are unable to escape the cold at day's end: people without homes, people who have lost power, and people who migrated to the U.S. and are still fighting for asylum.

Welcome to Possibilities, a creative climate newsletter on the possibilities that lie where crisis meets community. I’m Yessenia Funes, and I believe housing is a human right.

Many are looking at the white fluff as magical, but the reality has been far from it. In Seattle, at least five people have died from hypothermia, unable to find warmth during the freeze. They lived on the streets. I've written before about the homelessness crisis and the dangers this community faces when temperatures drop too low. It's awful. And it's enraging.

In the U.S., our government will spend hundreds of billions of dollars on war and the military but refuses to spend even a fraction of that on housing programs. In 2021, amid the COVID-19 housing crisis, the federal government spent a whopping $90 billion on housing aid, but that was more than 70 percent higher than the year prior given the gravity of COVID's impact on renters. That might sound like a lot of money, but it's scraps compared to what we spend to kill and slaughter innocent people across the globe. And it's a lot more than what the U.S. government usually offers.

In New York, where I live, city officials are struggling to find adequate housing for the migrants who are living on the streets as they fight for asylum. Migrants in my city aren't alone; others in Chicago and Denver face similar circumstances. The homelessness crisis is urgent. As is the need to properly welcome asylum seekers in the U.S.

We know that climate change will drive more people to leave their countries — and that's OK. We shouldn't fear these families. Instead, our leaders should build a strong infrastructure to give them the resources they need and also reduce emissions so that folks can safely remain in the countries that raised them. They don't want to leave home. We also know that the climate crisis will increase homelessness as extreme weather disasters destroy houses and displace entire communities.

These two groups shouldn't be competing for space in shelters. They need permanent homes. They need warmth, safety, healthcare. They need a sense of community. They can't find that outside in the blistering cold. 🌀

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.

The freeze has killed at least 14 people across the U.S.: at least four in Portland, at least three in Milwaukee, at least five in Seattle, and avalanches in Idaho and California killed a man in each state.

Cyclone Belal made landfall in Mauritius and the French Réunion Island Monday, killing at least four people off the southeastern coast of Africa.

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