The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Heat Kills
—But Not Equally

Aug 16, 2021

High heat in much of the U.S. has been killing people. In fact, heat kills more people in this country than any other kind of extreme weather. But like almost every other problem, high temperatures are especially deadly for poor and working-class people.

Many workers—particularly black and Hispanic—live in neighborhoods that lack sufficient green spaces and trees, that have an excessive amount of hot road pavement, parking lots and buildings. They also frequently live in housing—both public and private—that lacks good ventilation and air conditioning.

These neighborhoods have summertime temperatures that average 5, 10 or even 15 degrees hotter than more affluent mostly white ones.

This is not coincidental. As one environmental consultant put it: “We didn’t get here by accident, and we’re not going to get it fixed by accident.” Especially since climate changes are making the situation worse.

Government housing and real estate regulations have always been drawn up to benefit real estate companies and wealthy people. Racist government housing policies starting from the 1930s caused residential investment in certain areas to be choked off, while nearby industrial investment was encouraged. Highways were also frequently run through or near these neighborhoods, bringing more heat and pollution.

This is the reason we are in this situation today.