North America, like Europe and part of Asia, are again plunged into a harsh winter. That should be a reminder that, if the drought is what we fear the most, global warming does not mean the end of winter, but the worsening of seasonal variations in temperature. We will have to live with more cold AND more heat. As, more generally, we will have to live with more ways to do good AND more ways to do evil.
This should also show us that if the consequences of extreme heat are better known than those of extreme cold (moreover, there is not even a word for the symmetric of drought), the severity of a winter tells us a great deal about what we are, and it would be helpful and wise to hear the message.
On the one hand, this reminds us that cold weather actually kills many people: homeless people, vulnerable people, and victims of accidents.
On the other hand, this shows that, if they have not prepared themselves for these new temperatures, entire countries will experience huge disorders, as is the case today, for example, in Turkey. Those who have forgotten this will better understand the importance of having public services that work, and the means of defense and repair available under all conditions and circumstances, even those which occur only in very exceptional cases. It should even be one of the required criteria of a society’s quality whether it is prepared to react effectively to improbable danger.
And there, the verdict given by the facts, in the case of severe cold weather conditions, is merciless.
Our developed societies have all the means necessary to maintain our physical infrastructure, and so that the upper and middle classes get through winter as well as they can: Power plants are working, apartments and offices are heated, roads are clear, cars can circulate, airplanes are de-iced, trains can run, the major hospitals’ emergency department have appropriate technical departments, vaccination campaigns are made in a timely manner.
However, our societies are doing very little for the weak, and almost nothing for the weakest.
They are doing very little for the elderly in nursing homes, when they are forgotten by their families. And almost nothing for the homeless, shamefully abandoned on the streets.
How can we tolerate that a girl in high school sleep on the streets? That a woman and her baby cannot find a shelter? That a man in the prime of life be caulked in cardboard boxes? How can we leave these people, whether French or foreign, in a regular situation or not, out in the cold?
How can we tolerate that, even if we shelter them, sporadically, thanks in particular to the action of wonderful volunteers, nothing, absolutely nothing, is thought to help these people so they no longer need to have their hands out, again, the next night. Why is nothing being done to help all these people stop being dependent on charity, by providing them with more than a short term roof, that is to say, a real professional training, an orientation, a trade, and the means of finding or creating a job.
That should be the essential function of the State in the 21st century, towards the least fortunate: Not just assist them in an emergency, but to create the conditions so that they no longer need assistance; to treat them as adults, finally.