Ten years ago, three death row inmates sued the prison, claiming that they were forced to live in extreme heating conditions similar to those the incarcerated juveniles are experiencing.
No matter where you live, you've been impacted by the record-high temperatures surging across the US. But just because all of us have lived through the hottest month on earth it doesn't mean we're all in the same boat. To borrow an early Covid-era phrase, we may all be in the same storm, but some of us are on super yachts while others have just one oar.
What does that look like in the heat? It looks like children in Houston kept from public pools because of lifeguard shortages. Like outdoor workers in New Orleans struggling to make a living. And like Missourians in un-air-conditioned state prisons fearing for their lives.
And yet, pockets of hope remain. In El Paso, architects are doggedly researching how to provide maximum shade at scale; in Portland, a climate resilience program is working to connect vulnerable communities with efficient portable cooling units. These steps in the right direction are heartening, but remind us of how much of an uphill climb we face.
Read on to explore how the citizens of different cities are making their way through this storm, what innovations can be applied elsewhere, and which communities need national support.
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“What we’re seeing now is that the climate is getting hotter, heat waves are getting longer, stronger and more frequent. And that puts workers at even greater risk than even just 10 or 20 years ago,”
Chicago’s harsh winters historically kept mosquitos at bay, but as the planet warms they’re thriving here.
About eight years ago, a married team of architects fell in love with El Paso, not only because the desert conditions aid their research but also the city itself. As part of their research, the couple made maps that showed a correlation between income levels and specific ZIP codes regarding shade equity in the city.
The excessive heat has especially been difficult for those whose occupations require them to work outside, especially in parts of the city like the French Quarter—laden with concrete and with sparse tree cover and where temperatures are routinely several degrees hotter than the rest of the city.
For Tribal Nations of northern Minnesota, wild rice’s survival is not just about protecting the environment—it’s also about preserving a core part of their identity.
Houston only opened 23 of its city pools this year, due to a lifeguard shortage. The pools that remain closed raise questions about equal access.
Heat like this can trigger our body to produce more of the mood-regulating chemical serotonin, says Dr. Asim Shah. “And when you have an increased level of serotonin, you will get irritable, angry, aggressive, and all those things will cause mood swings.”
Although the Department of Corrections says the majority of its prisons are fully air conditioned, people incarcerated in some of those buildings say the vents often blow hot or dusty air.
The unprecedented heat the El Paso region is experiencing this summer has driven power demand here to never-before-seen levels and stressed the region’s electricity systems.
School bus temperatures during the summer months have long been the subject of complaints, persisting in recent years as New York City has seen record levels of heat. Last week, as temperatures spiked to over 90 degrees, advocates say the heat became even more severe inside of school buses.
In Vermont, climate change continues to show up in new ways. According to the Vermont Climate Assessment, average annual precipitation has increased 21% since 1900, and it’s become more variable in the last decade.
A new report shows that 3.8 million New Yorkers experience temperatures at least 10 degrees hotter because of urban development.
Although redlining practices were made illegal in 1968, clear racial and economic divisions remain in Omaha today, a lasting disparity that’s evident in North and South Omaha’s heat inequity and lack of green spaces.
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The American Journalism Project (AJP) is the first venture philanthropy dedicated to local news. AJP makes grants to local nonprofit news organizations to build their revenue and business operations, partner with communities to launch new organizations, and mentor leaders as they grow and sustain their newsrooms. Learn more about the independent, community-driven nonprofit news organizations AJP supports.