Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Sustainable Tucson

Last night, I attended a Sustainable Tucson meeting and listened to a number of speakers talk about heat emergencies and survival techniques. According to a fact sheet released by the White House (see below), climate change has brought increased warming, drought, and insect outbreaks to the Southwest, which has increased wildfires and damages to people and ecosystems. Heat emergencies can cause electrical blackouts and disrupt water supplies, and as the climate situation gets worse, these disruptions can last longer and longer. Arizona is expected to get hotter and significantly drier, and Tucson could potentially go a whole week without electricity - no air conditioning, no phones or internet, and no refrigerator or freezer to keep perishable foods - which becomes dangerous fast.

I had never heard about the 1995 heat wave in Chicago that left over seven hundred people dead (more than twice as many as the infamous Chicago fire of 1871). Having lived the last three years in the Windy City, this shocked me. What saved a lot of the people who survived the five days of 100+ degrees was their sense of community. The neighborhoods where people knew and interacted with each other regularly were more likely to make it through, because these people helped each other.

At this point in the Sustainable Tucson meeting, we discussed our own neighborhood community with those sitting around us. Having been in Tucson only a week, I didn't have much to contribute, but I ended up sitting next to Robby, one of Iskashitaa's board members. When the speaker later touched on how during a heat emergency, grocery stores wouldn't be the ones to feed people, she turned to me and nodded. In this kind of crisis, organizations like Iskashitaa would play a bigger role.

The refugee population is one of the most vulnerable groups when temperatures climb to dangerous heights. It's important that these people are given opportunities to become integrated in their community, that they have neighbors and contacts they can check in with, or friends that will check up on them. When (and not if) Tucson faces a week-long loss of power, it will be up to these people to help each other survive.


Gina Gresham
PR Intern

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