Throughout the piece, I tried to connect the language back to the tangible, real-world disaster of extreme heat to show how language can shape the way we see such events. (Who knew it would end up being so timely
Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at UCLA’s Institute of the Environment and Sustainability and the voice behind the Weather West
blog, offered one example that was too long to fit in the final piece, but luckily, we have no such limits here:
“Say you’re in Los Angeles. Climate change is going to dramatically increase the severity and likelihood of really bad heat waves, but that doesn’t necessarily have to hurt more people if you’ve designed the city to accommodate people living in a hotter world.
For example, if you’ve upgraded the electrical grid to accommodate it so you don’t have blackouts. If you ensure that people have access to cooling because a lot of people do not. If you ensure that outdoor workers and people who live outdoors have easy access to ways to avoid the worst impacts of these extreme heat events. Or if you’ve designed cities with more green spaces, or, you know, LA’s painting some of the streets white in the suburbs.
I mean, these sorts of things, some of them are more effective than others— obviously, I don’t think that painting the streets white is going to really solve the underlying problem—but you can start to chip away at the edges, and if you approach it from a bunch of different dimensions, all of a sudden you’re doing more than just chipping away at the edges. And so you’re really actively counterbalancing the climate-caused increase in risk if you can decrease the societal vulnerability.”
You can hear more from Swain and the other experts I mentioned above in the article on KCET
. But I also wanted to share some replies I got when I asked about the phrase on Twitter (a chaotic but helpful early step in my reporting), as I thought it received an interesting mix of ideas: