We have fun and games. As long as if by “fun” you mean 130 degree temperatures and by “games” you mean hoping your AC unit doesn’t burn out. Currently, a “heat dome” is battering the west, with record breaking temperatures already recorded in many states. The heat dome is coupled with a “megadrought” for ADDED fun, and makes me wish that we were all as #extra about climate change as 12 year old me was about the hole in the ozone layer.
We take it day by day…
Look. It’s clear that the heat dome wracking the west is associated with climate change. I’m not going to sit here and write another post warning us all about the “potential” danger of Climate Change. The danger has arrived, and we’re in the thick of it.
In the Jungle…
I want to talk about trees. Specifically the LACK of trees in lower income communities and urban areas. Because something as small as tree coverage is actually incredibly important in discussing our current, achingly hot, weather.
A study conducted by researchers from the Nature Conservancy found that “on average, low-income blocks have 15.2% less tree cover and are 1.5⁰C hotter than high-income blocks.” In the lowest income areas, the study found “30% less tree cover” and the neighborhoods were “4.0⁰C hotter.” What does this mean? Urban and poor areas are hotter than suburban wealthier areas. Specifically because they have fewer trees.
Why do trees matter? Well, climate change, the heat dome, and the megadrought all intersect with a variety of issues, including environmental and structural racism. Redlining laws prevented men and women of color from purchasing single family homes in suburban areas, keeping families of color concentrated in urban areas, preventing land ownership, and thus preventing the autonomous decision of planting of new trees.
Trees cool and clean the air. The shade of a tree can feel 15 degrees cooler than direct sun, AND, large tree stands have the ability to “create their own breeze.” (what?!). So, while we are in the middle of a climate crises, a heat dome, and a megadrought, we need to begin to invest in the small things that can help NOW, like trees. We also need to acknowledge, and take action against, the reprucussions of historical policies that, coupled with climate change, can be life threatening.
And look, I’m not a scientist, nor am I an expert in climate change. However, I am an historian. I understand the structural inequalities that created our current urban/suburban spread. I also understand how that past directly impacts our present. In this situation, it means that large swaths of the country will have a worse experience of the “heat dome” than other parts. If you’re like me, and enjoy pestering your locally elected officials, I’d suggest asking them to plant more trees in urban areas. You can also donate or volunteer to plant trees. It’s not a solid fix, but it’s a start, and that’s what we need right now.