A sweltering heat wave blanketed much of the United States this past week, with thermometers soaring well over 100 degrees in some places. The scorching temperatures sent millions of people searching for relief.

While nature treats everyone equally, sometimes producing pleasant weather conditions and sometimes hurricanes, torrential rains or extreme heat, capitalism does not. The huge difference between rich and poor in this country dictates how much relief a person will be able to get. In some cases it is a matter of convenience, and in other cases it is a matter of life and death.

All across the country it’s the same: those who have the financial wherewithal are able to air condition their homes; those who don’t have to linger around their local air-conditioned supermarket or sit at home sweltering, relying on a fan that merely blows the hot air around.

While one does not have to be rich to have an air-conditioner, many can’t afford to buy one, and soaring energy prices — necessary to increase the sacred profits of the energy industry — make heat relief more and more prohibitive for the average person.

Do you want to eat, or do you want air conditioning? Your ailing grandmother can’t take extreme heat? Well, you can hold back your mortgage payment, and hope they don’t take your house.

The heat wave has been responsible for the deaths of at least 11 people nationwide. Isn’t it likely that if they had the money for air conditioning, most of these people would have opted to use it?

Of course, unlimited use of electricity to power air conditioners is not environmentally friendly. Unfortunately, while numerous green energy technologies are being developed, they are not being adequately funded.

Our society has the power to make sure that no one goes without protection from the elements, to make sure that everyone has a refuge. What’s more, we have the scientific capability to develop this power in a way that will not destroy the delicate ecosystem that sustains human life.

So what’s stopping us?

The answer is clear: A capitalist system that puts corporate energy profits over people’s needs.