Environment Report: A Hot Thanksgiving – and What That Means
Where marijuana farms will go in the city, the mayor wants to study CCAs further and more in our biweekly roundup of the region’s environmental news.
Since 1874, there have only been eight 80-degree or warmer Thanksgiving Days in San Diego. This week, we’ll probably have the ninth: Temperatures outside are expected to be in the mid-80s – 15 to 25 degrees warmer than average – never mind what it’ll be inside with the oven on.
This will be the latest bit of notably and possibly record-setting hot weather across California this year. In September, temperatures in San Francisco hit an all-time high of 106. In October, Los Angeles hosted the hottest World Series game ever played, and record temperatures for fall were set across San Diego County, including in Alpine, El Cajon, Ramona and Vista. It was also hot in the city, hot enough that San Diego Unified sent kids home because of the heat.There’s a jarring new series in the Arizona Republic about what hotter and hotter days mean for people in the Southwest. The paper focused on its backyard, Maricopa County and Phoenix, but the reporting applies elsewhere: There are more hot days and more people are dying from them.
As the paper points out, we tend to think of these deaths as isolated incidents, not part of a disaster. But more people died from heat in one Arizona county than died from Hurricane Harvey in Texas or the Wine Country fires in Northern California: “Yet the deadly heat doesn’t grip the country’s attention, and its victims often die anonymously. One explanation: It plays out over time. Rather than one deadly landfall or firestorm, heat kills a few people a week, for months on end. Also: Heat is often an indirect killer. In many cases, it exacerbates a chronic condition that leads to a death. But heat is a killer just the same — in cooler temperatures, some of those people might have lived.”
Many of the dead were seniors, but not all. The series also looks at the systemic problems that add to the threat. Low-income people struggle to pay for air conditioning. And, most damning, places where low-income people live in Phoenix lack the tree-lined streets that cool things down. As the paper puts it, “heat discriminates” because low-income people live in places without shade, which leads to a demonstrable increase in temperature.
Does this sound like some parts of San Diego? Yes.
In San Diego, officials know about heat problems and have taken some steps to deal with them. They know where the risk of heat-related complications and deaths are. The county has dozens of “Cool Zones” where seniors and others can go on hot days. As part of its Climate Action Plan, the city is also working to plant more trees to create “urban forests” that will not only make neighborhoods more pleasant but potentially less deadly.
But is it enough? It’s something I’m going to start thinking about. Let me know if you have some thoughts: firstname.lastname@example.org.
In Other News
- Mayor Kevin Faulconer wants to further study the possibility of starting a community choice aggregation program.
- A local judge continues to take the San Diego Association of Governments to task for failing to plan to fight climate change, though SANDAG did have a win this summer at the state Supreme Court.
- The George W. Bush administration hid some of the risks to drinking water associated with fracking, which has helped increase natural gas production across the country, according to a new report by Inside Climate News.
- The Union-Tribune looks at the location of where San Diego’s marijuana farms will go in the city: Mira Mesa, Kearny Mesa and along the Mexican border. Farming operations have all sorts of implications for the environment, because the facilities can be energy and water intensive.
- Off California’s northern coast, purple sea urchins are taking over the sea floor as kelp forests disappear in a warming ocean. (Yale Environment 360)
- San Diego Gas and Electric got new uniforms to try to thwart scammers. (Union-Tribune)
- Because I’ve been covering sewage lately, I end up on some strange press release lists. Last week, I got one related to World Toilet Day, which was Nov. 19, in case you missed it.
From the Actual Environment
The latest Sacramento Report describes County Supervisor Greg Cox’s hopes to build a campground in the Tijuana River Valley. Some environmentalists are upset $1.6 million from a law sold as a way to clean up the valley may instead go toward the campground.
That debate aside, the valley is an interesting place, especially Border Field State Park. Whenever folks are in from out of town and want to drive around, I suggest we go there, to have the surreal experience of an empty American beach divided by a fence from an often-bustling Mexican beach.
When I first moved here, I went and felt trapped by the fence and by the border – the first time I’d ever felt something like that as an American. It seemed absurd I couldn’t just walk over and get some fresh juice or kick around a soccer ball, which is what I saw people doing through the fence. But as soon as I got close to it, a Border Patrol vehicle came roaring down the hill and an agent told us to back away.
Other times I’ve gone and marveled at Chula Vista and San Diego in the distance but nobody there, except maybe a few horseback riders.
But, as we’ve realized again and again this year, the water there and up the coast in Imperial Beach can make a person sick. Maybe someday that beach will be as safe as others in Southern California, but not without a lot of work by officials in both countries to ensure the South Bay’s waters aren’t full of bacteria and other toxins.