The climate change disaster so many people wished upon Southern states like Texas and Florida after their 2020 electoral vote results has occurred. On February 16, 2021, a historic deep freeze swept Texas, Tennessee, and other Southern states, where at least 58 people had died.
Even as images appeared on the Internet of destroyed homes, stories of families and children dying, social media users were quick to remain apathetic and blamed that Texas being a “red” state is what led to the disastrous snowstorm. Somehow, Internet users were quick to forget that climate change affects us all, but not equally. Climate change affects poverty stricken people and communities of color first, while the richest and most powerful people can fly to Cancun, as we battle floods, droughts, and arctic freezes. Remember that whoever is in charge, we cannot rely on those in power to save us from climate change – influential individuals can afford to leave us hurt so long as they are not losing money. Most Texans dislike Senator Ted Cruz and Governor Abbott, so what we need to do is show empathy and support for struggling people.
Unlike homes in the North, homes in Texas are not built for freezing temperatures, but to shed heat, as Texans experience regular 100°F summers. Given such, homes do not have furnaces, but rely on heat pumps and resistance coils, which are, unfortunately, not resistant enough for freezing temperatures. Although Texas is known for being the “energy” sector, the electrical infrastructure is still designed to meet the demands for summer heat instead of arctic winter blasts. Instead of taking to Twitter to laugh about how people are struggling in the cold, take a moment to understand that most Southerners are used to living in warmer climates, and do not have the right clothing for freezing temperatures. The phenomenon is even more dangerous because homes are losing heat, pipes are weakly insulated, and since no efficient measures are taken, individuals are also losing water, leaving many to shower with melted ice or sleep in their cars.
Texas did not prepare for this disastrous weather event because it would never have expected such to occur, which made the streets dangerous too. Very few people were able to leave their homes because towns do not normally have snow plows or shovels. Most stores do not even carry or bother to restock rock salt for ice. Overall, the climate was not built to withstand arctic-like temperatures, causing additional damage to people’s homes.
To make matters worse, the state is also experiencing an energy crisis. With burst gas pipes and cracked wind turbines, the electric grid’s capacity has largely decreased, leaving thousands of people without power. Texas’s electricity system is run by a non-profit known as the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT). The market allowed for competition in the retail sale of electricity, resulting in cheaper electricity for Texans and profit from competing power utilities, but the lack of regulatory oversight allowed companies to prioritize making profits over the health and safety of the state’s power grid. The communities that bore the greatest consequences of the market’s failures were Black, brown, Indigenous, and low-income communities. Communities of color were likely to face discriminatory power cut-offs by ERCOT, as they prioritized neighborhoods that shared electricity with hospitals, which are infrequently found in low-income, Black and Brown communities. BIPOC already disproportionately experience the negative consequences of climate change, and those in Texas, who likely voted the same way as those making fun of them on the Internet, are going through this phenomenon with lower-quality housing, poorer insulation, and an overall inability to handle the arctic freeze. Remember this is all occurring in the middle of a global pandemic, where water shortages, power outages, and burst pipes have made it even harder for hospitals to care for patients. Do not forget to show empathy at this time.
A state’s election outcome is no reason why a community of people must suffer. In fact, the handling of the Texas snowstorm highlighted that no elected official was well-equipped to serve their constituents. Therefore, no one of any affiliation should have to bear the consequences of climate change. We are so quick to forget that Texas, like several other Southern states, is heavily gerrymandered and faces a significant amount of voter suppression. The Republican-held legislature is responsible for recreating voting districts every ten years, and the current ones were designed with boundaries that maximize the benefit of the officials writing them. In Austin, the party in control stretches the opposing party’s supporters across districts, suppressing citizen’s voting power. The Supreme Court also added fuel to this fire, by giving Texas officials the power to uphold these same bad gerrymandering practices in 2018, which ultimately, discriminates against Black and Latinx voters who were disenfranchised.
I am sure none of us could handle below-freezing temperatures while living in homes with no water, no power, and the inability to withstand the cold. So instead of mocking people who are suffering and dying during a climate crisis, you can donate to mutual aid funds for those impacted by the storms in Texas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma.