excessive heat

[Rappler’s Best] Boiling point

Glenda M. Gloria

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[Rappler’s Best] Boiling point

Alejandro Edoria

'Extreme heat has been the norm in recent years, such that the seemingly unthinkable has happened: classes are being suspended and work is being shortened because of it'

It’s 35°C in Quezon City as I write this, and this would have been big news in my time as a reporter ages ago. But extreme heat has been the norm in recent years, such that the seemingly unthinkable has happened: classes are being suspended and work is being shortened because of it.

The temperature in other parts of the country is hotter (and is seen to get worse). Combine this with relative humidity and what you feel in your body would be what’s called the heat index. On Sunday, April 28, the heat index in Iba, Zambales, shot up to 53° – classified by the weather bureau as “extreme danger.” 

The heat is upsetting our health, our work, our farms, our schools, our businesses – and altering our daily habits. Why, even chickens are feeling the heat, producing smaller eggs!

On Sunday, the education department announced the suspension of in-person classes in all public schools nationwide on Monday and Tuesday. The labor department is urging businesses to adopt flexible working arrangements. Some local governments – such as Cavite and Binmaley, Pangasinan – have already taken the initiative of shortening the work week to four days.

Not that we didn’t see this coming. The month of February, which was supposed to still bring in the cool breeze in these parts and snow in others, was recorded as the warmest February ever. The speed and fury of global warming means that, henceforth, we’d end up recording every month as the warmest. Experts have warned that the world’s average temperature could already “temporarily” cross the 1.5°C threshold this year. Read more about it here.

The impact cuts across the board, across classes:

  • Extreme heat is hurting the Philippine economy, as this story shows
  • The dry spell is causing calamity in various areas, most recently in Maguindanao del Sur, Cotabato, and South Cotabato.
  • Just when power is most needed to temper rising heat, various regions in the Visayas have been going through severe power outages. A red alert notice was issued for the Luzon power grid on April 16, prompting government officials to urge Filipinos to reduce their use of aircon. Mindanao has been under yellow alert as well.
  • The International Labour Organization estimated that more than 2.4 billion workers, or 70.9% of the global workforce, “are likely to be exposed to excessive heat.” 
  • In a Thought Leaders piece for Rappler, ILO’s assistant director general and regional director for Asia and the Pacific called for “robust regulatory frameworks” to ensure the safety and health of workers in a changing climate.
  • Public health becomes a concern, and the health department is advising Filipinos to take extra precaution in and out of their homes.

Outside the Philippines, campuses are also at boiling point in degrees never before seen in recent history. Protesting students have encamped themselves in various US universities – to protest America’s continuing support of Israel in its war in Gaza and to demand universities to cut links from Israel.

  • Police arrested protesters in some US campuses on Saturday, April 27, barely four days after Columbia University canceled in-person classes and police arrested protesting students at Yale.
  • Reuters spoke with students who have set up protest tents in Columbia and who talked about their involvement within the context of a course they took called “Columbia 1968,” which was about protests in the same university against the Vietnam War.
  • Israel has stepped up strikes across Gaza, and the Palestinian president said only the US could stop Israel from attacking Rafah – the final blow that, he said, would force much of the Palestinian population to flee. 
  • In an internal memo, some US officials have informed Secretary of State Antony Blinken that they do not find “credible or reliable” the claim of Israel that it’s been using US-supplied weapons within the bounds of humanitarian law.

The student protests and encampments have triggered points of views in polarized America – from the simplistic to the overwrought to the nuanced. Some of the conservative views are reminiscent of the red-tagging that Filipino students and activists have suffered under the previous Rodrigo Duterte regime, and continue to suffer. The student protest movement here, after all, is also no stranger to tussles with authority that have often turned violent. 

Remember when Ateneo students called for a nationwide academic strike against Duterte at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic? And when Duterte threatened to defund the state-owned University of the Philippines if its students joined the strike? It was also Duterte who ended the 1989 accord between UP and the defense department that restricted police and military operations in UP campuses.

As Isabella Ramirez, editor in chief of the Columbia Daily Spectator, said in a recent interview about the conditions that set off the protests in her university: “How can you expect 18, 19, 20, 21 year olds to be trying to understand what is happening in such a time when not even our politicians and our national outlets understand what is happening to the fullest degree? We are very much processing as we’re learning…as we’re reporting…as it’s unfolding.” She articulates the values of campus journalists very well in this interview. Watch it. – Rappler.com

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Glenda M. Gloria

Glenda Gloria co-founded Rappler in July 2011 and is currently its executive editor.