It’s mid-July. You walk outside and are immediately hit with the sweltering heat of a summer day. Not to worry, you can simply lower the temperature on your A/C and pour yourself a nice cold glass of lemonade. But what if you couldn’t?
That is the daily reality for many of our unhoused neighbors who must endure the ever-rising summer temperatures due to global warming. However, with community-wide action to reduce our carbon footprint and help local housing missions, we can not only support some of our most vulnerable neighbors, but we can create a better climate for all.
My name is Olivia Blake, and I am a Master of Public Health student and proud Triad native. Like many of you, I am lucky enough to have never had to worry about finding a cool space to unwind on a boiling hot day. I am also aware that not everyone is this privileged and that climate change is only making things worse.
According to the most recent North Carolina Climate Science Report, we recently experienced the warmest decade in North Carolina’s history. Scientists predict that both our nights and days will get hotter, with temperatures rising from 2°F – 10°F by the end of this century. With humidity expected also to increase, the heat index values will rise, creating a public health risk.
In urban areas, like our cities within the Triad, the effects of these rising temperatures are expected to be even higher due to “the urban heat island effect,” which explains that “cities tend to be even warmer than rural areas because the additional paved surfaces absorb and retain heat”.
The health risks of prolonged heat exposure include loss of temperature control, heat stroke, worsening of chronic conditions, and if left untreated, it can even lead to death. For many unhoused individuals, the risk of these conditions is heightened due to a lack of accessible, safe spaces where they can get away from the heat.
That is why we must act now! We can help curb rising temperatures due to climate change by reducing our carbon footprint through simple changes, like recycling more, eating a plant-based diet, and changing our lights to compact fluorescent bulbs. We can also hold each other, companies, and our government accountable to reduce their carbon footprint through social activism and advocating for policy change. While supporting efforts to reduce the effects of climate change, we can also support the work of those who are providing shelter to our unhoused neighbors, such as the Bethesda Center and Winston-Salem Rescue Mission, through donations and becoming a volunteer.
We must continue fighting for climate justice until each and every one of us can enjoy a summer day without fear of the heat.
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