Yo, Rats Are Making a Mean Comeback—Thank Climate Change / by Yessenia Funes

    Peter Kaminski  / Flickr


Peter Kaminski / Flickr

If you live in a city, you know rats. You see them in the subway. Or maybe eating out of the garbage can near your bus stop. You might even see them in your home (which really fucking sucks for you, seriously, I'm sorry). But researchers have a hunch that climate change is going to make the pests an even bigger problem.

Emily Atkins reports for The New Republic:

It’s no surprise that rats thrive in cities, where humans provide an abundance of food and shelter. But experts now agree that the weather is playing a role in these recent increases. Extreme summer heat and this past winter’s mild temperatures have created urban rat utopias.

Fuuuuuuuuuck. I live in New York City, and I've never experienced rodents in my home, but I see those motherfuckers all over the subway tracks. I don't need to see any more of them!

As Atkins also points out, rats aren't just a gross sight; they're literally a vector for diseases like E. coli, salmonella and even a rare bacterial disease called leptospirosis. That shit killed a person in the Bronx and sickened another two between December and February. And the Bronx sees a disproportionate number of leptospirosis cases, which can lead to kidney and liver failure. 

In 10 years, New York City saw 26 cases of the disease, according to The New York Times. Eight of them were in the Bronx; that's roughly 30 percent. In a single borough. Which also happens to be the borough with the least number of people (if you exclude Staten Island, but I mean is that island really a part of NYC?). Is it a coincidence that the Bronx also happens to be the poorest borough? I think not.

Look, climate change and its resulting poor health outcomes disproportionately impact poor and non-White people. Why? Because most of these people live in shitty places as a result of faulty, irresponsible and sometimes intentional public planning. Maybe it's a dilapidated apartment building. Maybe it's a lower flood plain along a river or ocean. It all really depends. You can even be Brown living in a cute middle-class home, but the chances of climate change negatively impacting you increase because the color of your skin. Maybe your house is at a higher risk for flooding, and no one told you, so you didn't get flood insurance. 

So when I read Atkins' piece on rats, I just kept thinking: "If these disease-harboring rats keep on reproducing, they're not going to impact the rich muthafuckas in Manhattan who live in penthouses and shit. They're going to sicken the poor people whose landlords ignore their complaints, the poor people who can't afford to move to a rat-free environment."

And that shit just ain't right. Especially given that the federal government is on a crusade to remove all mentions of climate change from its websites—even the National Institutes of Health. Instead of saying "climate change," the website mentions "climate," reports The Guardian.

The average person finds it hard enough as is to connect climate change to health. Now, the government is making sure the world's leading public health research body doesn't utter the word. How is that supposed to help anybody? Climate change doesn't just create ideal environments for rats. It creates better environments for mosquitoes (remember Zika?). It can lead to wildfires, whose smoke can flow into cities and create brown smoggy air in even the most blue and breezy of places. That type of air is not healthy to breathe, especially for people who have asthma.

Climate change and health are inextricably linked, especially when looking at the processes that are driving climate change (i.e., fossil fuel production and combustion, power plant waste). There's already so much to deal with—and now rats?! Or, well, more rats?! 

This got me wondering: What about mice? Are they at least cool?