To begin with, Heat Wave: A Social Autopsy of Disaster in Chicago by Eric Klinenberg is one of the books that are quiet fascinating. In connection to this, it is important to note the main points that the author has brought into view. Being a resident of Chicago or rather being a Chicagonian, the author has grounded information concerning the political, social, psychological and the all other spheres that define the society. At this point, the book has covered a wide range of issues that relate to the city structure and the way of life that Chicagonians adapt. At the same time, the Heat wave that swept Chicago on 13th, July 1995 had great impact than it would have been anticipated due to social, political and other related reasons.
Although the Heat wave that swept Chicago on 13th , July 1995 was a natural disaster, Klinenberg has based his book on this disaster in order to expose the weaknesses that exist in the Chicago society as well as the reason behind the exaggerated impact of the 1995 disaster. It is from this point that the author calls for attention to the emergence of the forms of isolation, deprivation, and vulnerability that deserve critical scrutiny. The book has been directed to invite the reader to consider the city of Chicago as a residence as well as the way people live and die in the cities of today without being taken care of (Klinenberg , 2003, p.8).
In the same line of thought, the author has managed to challenge the reader to imagine how he or she can be able to transform as well as inhabit the cities of tomorrow. In combination with this, the authors have touched on the often unperceived kind of conditions that exist in the city of Chicago. Mainly, the author has revealed people, places and institutions that were most affected by the disaster. He has also, exposed the homes of decedents, neighborhoods and buildings whereby there was a high concentration of deaths (Klinenberg , 2003).
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More to this, the emergency response system that was forged, the medical examiners office and scientific research centers that searched for the causes of death along with the operations of the newsrooms in regard to this disaster have been brought into view. According to the author, the book has established the biological reflections that relate to social fault lines for which the nature is not responsible as presumably thought but the human beings are the ones that are responsible (Klinenberg , 2003). The reasons that made many Chicago residents to die in the disaster along with the fact that the deaths were overlooked have been examined.
It is evident from this book that there was a social foundation crack in the city of Chicago that caused many deaths than anticipated. According to the author, the death toll of the 1995 heat wave was higher than the meteorological models and other related models could predict. The methods and the theories that were employed in the conventional health and climate studies deprived the scientists the required tool kit for research. It is evident in addition that the social environment of the Chicago city contributed to the devastation that was brought about by the disaster of 13th, July, 1995(Klinenberg , 2003, p.18).
Basically, the book examines the social conditions that perpetuated the death of hundreds of Chicago residents of which majority of them were old, isolated, and in the larger perspective impoverished. The support systems that were meant to protect the vulnerable city residents have been pointed out as to have had failed in this crisis (Klinenberg , 2003). Following the Heat wave of July 1995, the patterns of mortality that was emanating from this disaster reveal so much about the inequalities that divided Chicago as a city.
Notably, majority of those that died due to heat wave disaster, were elderly with an average age of sixty five years of age. Again, the majority who died included the African Americans who had the highest proportion of death rates of any ethnoracial group. This shows that as compared to the white counterparts, they were the most affected of all. In actual sense, the heat wave related deaths were more pronounced in the low income, elderly, African-American, and violent regions of the metropolis (Klinenberg , 2003, p.20).
From a broader point of view, the author’s main thesis is that the social disparities of the city of Chicago have much to contribute in devastation of the city owing to the natural disasters. This is to suggest that the level at which disaster affected Chicago residents was accelerated by certain unperceived reasons that made the toll rather high (Martin, 2002). The author has in particular tried to reveal the weaknesses of the social structure of Chicago city. In this context, he has brought into view the many inadequacies that are related to the heath care system, political, economical and social spheres. Needless to say, there are many issues that the author has managed to explore keeping in mind that although heat wave of 1995 was a natural disaster, its death toll and aftermath effects were escalated by underlying social factors. The mortality rate of the 1995 heat wave put the number of deaths at over 700 deaths (Martin, 2002).
In essence, the author has also touched on the health issues in that the health practitioner is face to face with limited resources that make for the health care of the public. Principally, the author maintains that the hospitals were filled into capacity with many limited numbers of care providers. This is evident from the number of patients whose needs could not be met by the existing medical care as well as the whole health care system (Martin, 2002). Following the health care system report, the statistics of those that died was put at a number that was rather underestimated. In this sense, the author has revealed that more than a thousand people in excess of the July norm were admitted in the inpatient units in local hospitals as a result of heatstroke, dehydration, heat exhaustion, renal failure and electrolytic imbalances.
Other people who suffered from the heart-related illnessness brought about by the heat wave were treated in the emergence rooms (Klinenberg , 2003, p.9). There seems to be several deficiencies with the health care system whereby the recording and the statistics provided do not actually reveal the actual death toll. Explicitly speaking, the heath care system response towards the 1995 heat wave left the results with a limitation that made them to be unreliable. This is what the author has explored pointing out to the weaknesses and the failures of the heath care system whose response was accompanied by inefficiency. The report that was brought from the Medical Examiners Office included those that did not visit the office (Klinenberg , 2003, p.9).
Following this point, one can point out that the health care system reports are inaccurate and the fact is that one cannot depend on them. On the other hand, the heat wave led to many health ailments that called for medical attention. Nonetheless, the causes of deaths and the health ailments related to the disaster were not adequately addressed as many of the health care systems are not well equipped. There was some disparity that was realized owing to the fact that some neighborhoods and groups revealed high mortality rates. Accordingly, other localities were so much affected with the example of the low income areas (Martin, 2002).
In this connection, many of the people in the city of Chicago vary in the way public services or in case of disaster the way the measures are taken. Presumably, the best medical services as well as measures are only applied as well as given to the people who are of high class while leaving others to die in poverty and social isolation. The author has tried to bring into a broad point of view that the disaster affects those who are isolated, marginalized groups in the society. According to Klinenberg(2003), the emergency rooms, hospitals and other medical related services were overly used with many of the patients being turned back since the medical care failed to attend to them.
It is almost impossible to feature what really happened to those that were turned back and those that called for ambulance services without anyone responding to them. In accordance to the stipulated report in the book Heat Wave: A Social Autopsy of Disaster in Chicago by Klinenberg(2003), many people died outside hospitals as they had been closed owing to the fact that they were filled to the capacity. Additionally, the author points out that many patients had no one to direct them to the places whereby they could get their help. This further increased the number of those that died.
From what the author has presented in the book, it is evident that he has taken the position that the social environment so much contributed to the devastation of the heat wave of 1995. In this sense, the author points out to the social faults as well as the differences that exist in Chicago that recorded deaths of many in some areas and others few (University of Chicago, 2002). At this point, it is important to assert that the author has tried to reveal that the city of Chicago has a problem in the social structure that has contributed to the high mortality rates in this disaster.
Arguably, there are several issues concerning the social work and concepts that the author has addressed. In fact, the author has addressed the failing effort of the social worker in the city of Chicago on the basis of the heat wave of 1995 whereby it served to expose these kinds of weaknesses and the failures that the social unit has experienced. It is on the basis of ethics and morality that most social workers base their activities; nonetheless, it is a very hard task to define the social coherence in a society whereby isolation has been exercised. This is to mean that in the Chicago city, there were those that lived in isolated places in regard to social requirements. There is some kind of social fault that seems to enhance disasters due to differences in income, race and more so the political leadership that is unstable (University of Chicago, 2002). In the larger perspective, culture has stood to challenge the social unit, whereby due to cultural issues, some people are more affected than the others in the Chicago city. There is quiet so much work that needs to be done on research in order to find out the social faults that so much make the city of Chicago residents to have differences that endanger their lives.
Unquestionably, the author has managed to capture the mind of the reader taking the reader in a point to point journey in establishing the problems with the social structure of the city of Chicago. In line with this, the author’s strength that has given the book strength, stems from the fact that he has managed to provide an evidence based findings that the city of Chicago has social faults that needs to be redressed. Once one reads the book, the urge to seek for remedy carries him or her. Klinenberg (2003) has managed to take the reader to what he terms as social autopsy of which he refers to the aspect of examining the social, political, and institutional organs in the city that made the disaster worst than anticipated. He has also pointed out that some neighborhoods experienced high mortality rates than others.
Equally, others died at home alone. He further examines the response of the city government, journalists, scientists and public officials as well as the way they reported the crisis. Remarkably, the author has exposed the social breakdown of the city inclusive of the literal and social isolation of seniors, institutional abandonment of the poor neighborhoods along with the retrenchment of the public assistance programs (University of Chicago, 2002). Mainly, the above social fault lines contributed to the increased fatality rates in the 1995 heat wave in Chicago.
Many people as the author suggests, died behind closed doors and sealed windows far from the public agencies, out of contact with family, friends and community groups. Needless to say, it is essential to point out that the author has thoughtfully organized, clearly edited, giving an appropriate balance of background, statistics, images from news photography of which has made his work to be one of the best ways through which a writer can challenge the society towards addressing of issues that need to be repaired at a societal point of view. Another thing that the author has done well is the aspect of avoiding the academic long-windedness of which it may limit one from reading the book.
Generally, the book has much strength that has covered the weaknesses that may otherwise be found. However, more research based evidence need to be incorporated. This calls for other researches by other researchers. Although the author has provided the social breakdowns realized, he has done so little to provide the remedy and the way it should be done. In this sense therefore, the book is generally an easy to read book, well presented with skill and aptness. I completely agree with the author in every bit of evidence that led to high death rates owing to the fact that he has managed to explore and back the position he has taken to reveal the social faults that led to a natural disaster sweeping a large number of lives.
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