Heat, Climate, and Creating Safety for Our Communities

Veronica Wood
July 15, 2023

Inequality is visualized through access. In the State of California, hot summers are not passing phrases but real dangers. With extreme heat beginning to barrel down, organizations are working to create access to cooling for all.

In a recent Ethnic Media Services news briefing, experts addressed the urgent need to protect California's most at-risk residents, particularly farmworkers who endure harsh working conditions. Strategies discussed included increasing shade infrastructure and implementing targeted measures to combat extreme heat.

V. Kelly Turner, Associate Director of Urban Environmental Research at UCLA, emphasized the worsening nature of extreme heat, exacerbated by the urban heat island effect. Turner stressed the importance of erecting shade structures, such as trees, awnings, and bus shelters, which can significantly reduce body temperatures and provide relief.

Dr. Lucía Abascal, Public Health Physician at the California Department of Public Health, highlighted three key considerations for coping with extreme heat: staying cool, staying hydrated, and looking out for one another. Seeking air-conditioned spaces, staying hydrated, and checking on vulnerable individuals are crucial during heatwaves.

Marta Segura, Chief Heat Officer and Director of Climate Emergency Mobilization for the City of Los Angeles, emphasized the vulnerability of low-income areas without access to air conditioning. The city has plans to accelerate the installation of bus shelters to address heat adaptation needs in these communities.

Sandra Young, a retired Family Nurse Practitioner and founder of the Mixteco Indigenous Community Organizing Project, shed light on the challenges faced by farmworkers. Their wages are directly tied to the amount of produce they pick, forcing them to work in extreme heat. Young emphasized the need for improved working conditions and access to water.

Dr. Kimberly Chang, a Family Physician at Asian Health Services, highlighted the increased emergency department visits for heat-related illnesses among Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander communities. She stressed the importance of education regarding cooling measures, such as using fans, opening windows, and wearing light clothing.

Alongside our panel, we also were given health warning signs. Be sure to know the signs of heat stroke, which are: throbbing headache, confusion, nausea, dizziness, body temperature above 103°F, hot, red, dry or damp skin, rapid and strong pulse, fainting, loss of consciousness.

If already dehydrated, use a simple homemade electrolyte mix by adding salt and sugar to your water.

Protecting vulnerable communities in California requires targeted interventions, including shade infrastructure, access to cooling facilities, and community support networks. By implementing these strategies, the state can mitigate the impact of extreme heat and safeguard the well-being of its residents.

Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons