Philadelphia, Phoenix communities grapple with urban heat from climate change

PHOENIX — As Reggie Carrillo has experienced firsthand, where you live can determine how hot your neighborhood is.

The environmental activist and educator lives in a predominantly Mexican-American area in south-central Phoenix, where segregation once forced blacks and Hispanics to live south of the railroad tracks. More than half a century later, a historical lack of investment meant fewer trees and subsequent temperatures 13 degrees Fahrenheit (7 degrees Celsius) warmer than in wealthier, tree-lined neighborhoods miles away.

“To understand climate change, to understand the urban heat island effect, you have to understand history,” said Carrillo, who wants to share that knowledge with neighbors and help cool communities.

» Read more: Extreme heat in Philadelphia should be a year-round concern | Viewpoint

Carrillo benefits from one of several nonprofit initiatives emerging across the United States to educate and engage residents about climate-induced heat that disproportionately affects low-income communities of color.

The most ambitious of these was the Urban Thermal Leadership Institute, launched last year by nonprofit community development firm Phoenix Revival and The Nature Conservancy. The nonprofit global conservation group known for protecting natural areas is now also doing more work in urban areas, such as planting hundreds of trees and overseeing community gardens near Atlanta’s South River.

The class, held Saturday morning with experts on all aspects of climate change, not only teaches residents like Carrillo why their neighborhoods are getting so hot, but also how to organize and advocate for cooler, greener, healthier community. Other topics discussed included water, air quality and environmental equity in poorer Black, Latino and Indigenous communities.

As climate change causes stronger, more frequent, and longer-lasting heatwaves in the U.S. and around the world, historically temperate and even cold regions have struggled with the effects of high temperatures.

Grey, cool and drizzling for much of the year, the Pacific Northwest baked in triple-digit temperatures in an unusual heatwave last summer that was blamed for many of the deaths. Temperatures in Oregon and Washington soared into the 90s this summer, a sign that global warming has created a new normal for hot weather in the region.

In Philadelphia, temperatures typically drop to 20 to 30 degrees (-7 to -1 degrees C) in winter, and summers get hotter with more summers in the 90s (over 32 degrees C).

National nonprofit The Trust for Public Lands recently concluded a two-year initiative that used public art to raise awareness of the growing dangers of urban heat and spark concerns about extreme low-income communities of color in the northeastern city. temperature discussion.

They distributed “Seedling” coloring books designed by local artists with information in English and Spanish in the Hispanic-dominated Fairhill community, and organized a public workshop on designing shade structures and murals in the ethnically diverse Grays Ferry Art workshop.

The Environmental Protection Agency recently recognized Philadelphia’s heat response program, and similar initiatives are underway or proposed across the United States, including New York’s Harlem, Miami, Seattle, and California’s Ventura County.

» Read more: In Philadelphia, residents and artists work together to tackle extreme urban heat through art and education

Irving Franklin, director of the Pennsylvania Public Land Trust, said the Philadelphia project has sparked discussions about crowded, aging neighborhoods that are 20 degrees Celsius (11 degrees Celsius) warmer than nearby neighborhoods because they don’t have parks or enough tree canopy. .

“We all have a lot to learn, not just the people who live in these neighborhoods,” Franklin said, noting that organizers have heard from community members who often spend hot summer nights out of fear of crime Sleep with the windows closed.

“The rest of us need to know people’s experiences so we can address this,” he said.

In Phoenix, Carrillo is working with several other five-month academy graduates to design a “cool corridor,” a walking path that will be lined with plants native to the Sonoran Desert, such as mesquite trees , cactus, and creosote came from a grant from The Nature Conservancy and were planted this fall. The team also plans to hold relevant community meetings with local residents.

“We want people to hear their voices and understand what their community is like,” Carrillo said.

The academy held its first class last year, with about 40 community residents attending weekly online gatherings to hear subject matter experts explain issues such as transpiration, the process by which plants cool the surrounding area and the effects of extreme heat on people.

“We’re trying to help people find solutions that will cool their communities long-term,” said Anna Bettis, director of the Healthy Cities Program at The Nature Conservancy in Arizona. “Shadow is a resource. If you look around, you’ll see it How uneven the distribution is in some communities.”

That’s not just happening in places more accustomed to heat, like Phoenix’s Maricopa County, where mercury reached 115 degrees Fahrenheit (46.1 degrees Celsius) in July, and 339 people died from heat-related causes last year.

A nature conservation program in Atlanta has planted 300 trees and oversaw eight community gardens along the city’s southern river, Betis said.

Carrillo discussed with several visitors his team’s plans to build the Cool Corridor, an event organized in late September by Arizona State University’s graduate design program at Academia del Pueblo, a K-8 charter school near him.

“We don’t have proper sidewalks here, and a lot of our students have to walk five or more blocks without shade in heat of over 100 degrees (37.7 degrees Celsius),” says Teresa Schier, who teaches at the school Watt said. “We don’t have transportation and their parents often work several jobs and can’t pick them up.”

Neighbor Carlos Ramirez and his 13-year-old son Alexis came to learn how ASU students are researching ways to improve shade in the area.

“It’s going to be hot in here,” allowed Ramirez Sr. “It would be nice if there were more trees.”

In another sparsely shaded neighborhood in Phoenix, Heat Academy graduate Curtis Merritt, a disabled Navy veteran, is working with his team to grow as many as a dozen in an area considered a food desert. fig, apple, pear and citrus trees, but not enough resources. Get nutritious food.

The public school student population in the rundown neighborhood of Merritt, north of Phoenix’s Sky Harbor International Airport, is working-class and about 80 percent Latino, and the local Prentice Park has become home to dozens of homeless people in recent years.

“The great thing about this program is that I can help cool my community not only by teaching and participating,” Merritt said. “One day, with these trees, I will be able to feed my neighbors too.”

Source link