A Climate and Humanitarian Crisis: A Call to Action

2022-09-09

 |  Environmental Racism

“The world is reaching the tipping point beyond which climate change may become irreversible. If this happens, we risk denying present and future generations the right to a healthy and sustainable planet – the whole of humanity stands to lose.”

– Kofi Annan, Former Secretary-General of the United Nations

The Floods in Pakistan

Climate change is happening right now, and people are watching it happen on their phones and computers, however, that is far from the reality millions of people are facing in Pakistan. Since June, Pakistan has been experiencing intense monsoons and flooding. Millions of people are being impacted by the flooding and there are over 480 thousand people being displaced from their homes. The culprit? Climate change. Pakistan is home to over 7000 glaciers and they are melting. 

The majority of people in Pakistan live on the banks of the Indus River which spawns from the Himalayas and runs through the country. The heavy monsoon rains of summer have caused the river to overflow and climate change has only made this seasonal event worse. The Himalayan glaciers have been melting at a rate of 0.7 meters per year. The increased rate at which the glaciers are melting combined with the heavy rains has the country repeating history. In 2010, a similar situation occurred, where seasonal melting coupled with intense rains caused a massive monsoon that impacted one-fifth of Pakistan’s land area, and over 2000 people died. As glaciers continue to melt and sea levels continue to rise, history will continue to repeat itself. 

Photo: These images combine satellite and infrared images to increase the contrast between land and water, showing the intensity of the flooding of the Indus River. Small bands of water have now expanded, drowning agricultural lands and homes.
By NASA – https://worldview.earthdata.nasa.gov/, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=122411650

Changing the Narrative

What makes the events happening in Pakistan even more heartbreaking is the limited media coverage that it’s received. It brings up discussions around the media being unconsciously (or consciously) biased towards topics that are white-centric narratives. It is disappointing to see that the flooding in Pakistan has been happening since June and yet it is only now that our newsfeeds are teeming with content from Pakistan’s floods. 

The amount of content about Pakistan’s floods has increased significantly in the last week, compared to June and July when there were only a few articles on the floods in major media outlets such as the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC). This brings up the question, do race and ethnicity play a role in media coverage? Hurricane Katrina was a category 5 hurricane that struck the southeastern coast of the United States and took over 1800 lives. The media coverage of Hurricane Katrina is seen as controversial because of the narratives surrounding evacuees and the people impacted by the Hurricane. “​​ Most interestingly, in articles in which either “evacuee” or “refugee” appeared within 10 words of “poor” or “Black,” “refugee” was the more popular term by a statistically significant margin of 68% to 32%. This result cannot be accounted for by the race-neutral explanations identified above. Rather, these data support the conclusion that race played some role in the use of “refugee” in the coverage of Katrina” (Sommers et al., 2006). Even when there was coverage about racialized groups, the context of this coverage had a negative annotation. Global incidents that are caused by climate change are not a burden for only one community to carry. We all contribute to climate change, so we must all face the consequences together.

How Can You Help?

What are some things we can do to help Pakistan now? The United Nations has called for a Flash Appeal of $160 million dollars to help provide 5.2 million people with food, water, health, safety, and emergency resources. Here are some great resources where you can donate or inform yourself about the situation in Pakistan. 

Islamic Relief Canada is working on the ground to help Pakistan recover as quickly as possible from the damage of the floods. If you are able to donate, you can do so here.

Pakistan is a climate “hot spot” and children are at “extremely high risk”  to the impacts of exposure to climate and environmental factors, which combined with the vulnerability the floods have produced, have made children in Pakistan more at risk than ever. UNICEF’s Humanitarian Action for Children appeal is a plan in place to help support children in Pakistan impacted by disasters and conflicts. If you are able to donate, you can do so here

If you are located near Ottawa, the Canada-Pakistan Association is collecting donations for a shipment of clothes, household items, and hygiene products, They are collecting donations at ACCESS Storage, 38 Edgewater St, Kanata, ON K2L 1V8, between 11 am to 1:30 pm, every Saturday and Sunday until September 25th. For more information, please visit their website here

If you are interested in seeing photos from Pakistan and immersing yourself in the lives of the individuals impacted by the flooding, you can check out the New York Times photo journal on the topic. 

Resources
Sommers, Samuel R., et al. “Race and Media Coverage of Hurricane Katrina: Analysis, Implications, and Future Research Questions.” Analyses of Social Issues and Public Policy, vol. 6, no. 1, 2006, pp. 39-55.

Images:

1. “Pakistan floods: thousands of houses destroyed, roads are submerged” by Oxfam International is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

2. These images combine satellite and infrared images to increase the contrast between land and water, showing the intensity of the flooding of the Indus River. Small bands of water have now expanded, drowning agricultural lands and homes. By NASA – https://worldview.earthdata.nasa.gov/, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=122411650

3. “Mirpurkhas in flood 2022” By Ali Hyder Junejo (https://flic.kr/p/2nHpvVM)

4. “An arial view of Khairpur Nathan Shah City, Mado in Sindh covered with flood water in 2022.” By Ali Hyder Junejo (https://flic.kr/p/2nHHm3j).

5. “An arial view of Khairpur Nathan Shah City, Mado in Sindh covered with flood water in 2022.” By Ali Hyder Junejo (https://flic.kr/p/2nHHm3j)