Recently, I posted an image on the Everyday Climate Change feed on Instagram, a collective of photographers documenting climate change across the world. The photo can be seen below. The image was of a man spraying to eliminate mosquitos in Dharavi, Mumbai, India. In the context of climate change, I discussed how environmental hardships in rural areas would likely drive more people to urban centres where viruses such as Dengue run rampant, which would potentially increase the number of Dengue cases overall in the future.
What I think shocked people was that there were children in the image right in the thick of the spray itself. This gained the attention of some people that follow the feed who left comments.
Two people voiced concerns. Both comments encapsulated their worries in regards to children breathing in the chemical spray, which is an entirely valid concern. I responded in an attempt to explain that in the context of a country like India and a city like Mumbai this is the, at the moment, one of the most effective ways to control viruses like Dengue. My response was as follows:
“I can assure you that this spray is far better than the alternative. The alternative being: contracting dengue and being admitted to a substandard and unhygienic hospital with a lack of facilities to assist in your recovery, which could be fatal. Not forgetting to mention the medical bills associated post hospitalisation i.e. pharmaceutical drugs, which are much too expensive for scores of families in these communities. It is far from a perfect way to deal with mosquitos, but on a scale as such, it is effective.”
The response I received is what triggered me to write about this:
“If the spray causes cancer or other life-threatening illness, then your point is moot. If the spray is powerful enough to kill mosquitos, it is powerful enough to poison people and animals too.”
To me, this sounds like someone at odds with what billions of people live with every day. For someone to completely discount all the factors that I mentioned and overshadow it with non-evidence based assumptions shocks me. As globalised as this world has become, it is clearly obvious that so many people are sometimes even further removed from the truth of a situation. Rather, they assume, with their gut, what is right and wrong, despite context, reality, and evidence.
If there is one thing I learnt some time ago, it is that arguing with people, as such, is pointless – hence my lack of reply. I can only lay out the facts and realities, but people have to make their own decisions. However, what are we as a global society if we cannot see past our assumptions and prejudices?
I realise that I am one of the fortunate few who has had so many opportunities to see what the world is really like in a variety of contexts. However, to be honest, this moment made me question the state of people’s understanding of the world. For realistic points and context to be considered “moot” based on a lack of experience, knowledge, and a complete assumption is worrisome, to say the least.
Maybe my final thoughts should have been written as such: I invite you here with two options. Option one - breathe in the chemicals for a short period; Option two – live on the same income as the people here, contract dengue, get checked into one of the hospitals nearby with substandard facilities and then struggle to pay for the post-hospitalisation medication and hope you get better. Let’s take a moment to think about which option sounds better.