Surviving this summer
Following a shorter-than-usual monsoon season, sweltering temperatures are baking the whole nation. Meteorologists say Korea is still far from turning into a subtropical country, which is decided mainly by warm winters rather than hot summers. Yet Koreans feel that the summer heat waves are becoming more intense, more frequent and longer lasting here, as the years go by.
Climate experts have yet to find decisive evidence linking various unusual weather events, such as heat waves, droughts or typhoons, to global warming. Scientifically proven or not, however, ordinary people feel ― and know ― this planet is not what it used to be even a decade ago. Otherwise, many of them shouldn’t be cooperating voluntarily to campaigns to save energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
It’s a desirable development. Yet more urgent, for most global villagers including Koreans, is to survive yet another hot, humid summer. Firms give their employees long holidays and adopt flexible work hours. People move more slowly, stay out of the sun and seek air-conditioned space.
As painful as it is unpleasant, the summer heat does not threaten the lives of most people. Yet there are people for whom the killer heat is not just a metaphorical term: senior citizens who live alone in flophouses.
For these people in their 70s and 80s most of whom suffer from one or more diseases, summer is far harder to endure than winter. Lying down in rooms barely large enough for one person and where inside temperatures are far higher than outside, these occupants struggle day by day with the help of various forms of medicine, including sleeping pills. Government statistics show that the number of poor and elderly people living alone is close to 1 million.
``If senior citizens lose their lives because of the sweltering heat, these are not natural deaths but social deaths,” said a volunteer.
We can’t agree more. Both central and local governments should provide more shelters from heat waves at community centers and take better care of elderly people afflicted with high blood pressure and diabetes. Some holiday-makers who donate part of their expenses towards such projects deserve praise. More people should join them.
Nothing, even the intolerable heat, would be more painful for the underprivileged class to endure than the indifference of other people, and no amount of material help can replace sincere neighborly love to support them.