From coast to coast, recent disasters have proven to us that the climate crisis is a pressing infrastructure emergency. Marginalized communities are on the frontline and feel these effects first and worst. We need bold climate policy that matches the scope of the crisis.
We asked our team across the country to share their recent experiences with climate disasters…
“Last week in Oregon, temperatures reached 115 degrees, which caused roads in Portland to crack. Our state witnessed record-breaking temperatures which led to 95 people dying in Multnomah County. Very few homes have access to air conditioning. Homeless people were left to travel across the city to get to cooling centers, and many didn’t feel safe doing so because of the risk of their homes being swept by the police if they left. This heatwave impacted our crops in Oregon with berries ripping faster, potatoes becoming spoiled, and farm workers dying in the heat.
Oregon needs investment in infrastructure, our lives depend on it.“
-Laura Krouse, Portland, Oregon.
“Last week’s temperatures were unprecedented for many across the Pacific Northwest and the impacts were felt here in New York. As temperatures rose over 90 degrees with stifling humidity, over 160 cooling centers were opened to New Yorkers. In the sweltering heat, Con Edison intentionally cut power to over 30,000 residents in Southeast Brooklyn anticipating that its equipment was unable to handle the heat and demand. In other words, the existing infrastructure was inadequate and ill equipped to deal with the heat and the demand from customers using more electricity. Moreover, cutting the electricity led to local businesses throwing away large amounts of food which further exacerbates New York’s high food waste issue. This event was just one example of the anticipated extreme heat events which will continue to grow in intensity, frequency and duration.
It is imperative that we invest in key infrastructure that will better prepare New York for these future events.”
-Jenille Scott, New York, New York.
“Last week, Washington State hospitals reported 676 emergency department visits for suspected heat-related illness. That’s a staggeringly high health toll. Between 2000 and 2018, summer heat-related hospitalizations in Washington only surpassed 51 twice, according to state data. Of the heat-related calls made during this year’s heat wave, a disproportionate 11% were for or from people experiencing homelessness. Because Seattle has historically had moderate summer temperatures, only 44% of homes and businesses have air conditioning. For those without homes, the cooling centers provided were not adequately advertised and were therefore only at half capacity during the heatwave.
It’s clear that Washington State needs major investments to upgrade our infrastructure in order to prepare for future climate crises that will only get worse.“Climate change is the single biggest threat to our infrastructure and the lives of the most vulnerable populations across California.“
-Emily Martin, Seattle, Washington
“Californians are no stranger to the deadly impacts of the climate crisis on our failing infrastructure. Since January 1st, 4,600 wildfires have raged across California, nearly a thousand more than last year at this time. Rising temperatures and increasingly dry conditions make fire season worse every year. As we enter into the summer months, where temperatures in Los Angeles often reach 100 degrees and above, our communities are bracing for more mass power outages, shut down by power companies to avoid sparking wildfires and overpowering the grid. For those without access to air conditioning and clean air — including the unhoused population, those with disabilities, and low-income families — the deadly combination of unhealthy air quality and sweltering heat often proves fatal.
-Carrie Cullen, Los Angeles, California
“Last week in Miami, tragedy struck. At 1:15 in the morning, while residents of the Champlain towers were peacefully asleep in their beds, the building they called home collapsed.
For as long as climate discourse has been going on, Miami has struggled to grasp what it means for the beachfront properties that our city is known for. Concerns about the effects of the climate crisis were often dismissed as distant prophecies, even fantasies. But now, the whispers are inescapable: salt water intrusion, sinking buildings, sea level rise. The question on everyone’s mind now is: could my building be next? The illusion of safety, of control, has been shattered. And as we hear harrowing stories every day in a painstakingly long rescue mission, it is hard not to feel scared.
“Buildings like this don’t fall down in America,” said Surfside’s Mayor Charles Burkett. But they can and they will, so long as we continue to ignore the reality that our climate is changing, and the integrity of our buildings is changing with it. The cost of addressing such issues is steep, but nothing compared to the price we pay when tragedy strikes.
Now more than ever, it is critical that we invest in our infrastructure, before it is too late.“
-Cat Fernandez, Miami, Florida
“In 2018, a gas pipeline exploded across a swath of the Merrimack Valley that required 30,000 people to evacuate. That pipeline, like so many others across the state, was carrying and leaking Methane, a greenhouse gas 72 times more potent than carbon dioxide in a 20 year period. The climate change it causes is costing us our treasured shorelines along Cape Cod, fisheries, local Maple syrup industry and the well-being of our environmental justice communities who experience some of the highest levels of particulate air pollution in the country. As it stands, the American Jobs plan aligns with our “Building Jobs with Justice” bill, which seeks to renovate infrastructure to reduce pollution while justly employing workers to do that labor.
Please meet this grassroots effort to work on infrastructure that will help us survive on a finite planet.“
-Eben Bein, Cambridge, Massachusetts
Young people know that Biden’s original plan American Jobs Plan with $2 trillion in investments for clean energy infrastructure didn’t go far enough. We need $10 trillion in investments to adequately address climate change. Biden’s previous promise of $2 trillion was a step in the right direction, but still lacking. Now, negotiations have chipped away at this number.
We cannot allow our futures to be negotiated away. A compromise on climate relief is a compromise of our future.
Click here to write your elected officials, urging them to support the American Jobs Plan with no budget cuts!