Summer now a survival test for millions as heat gets more extreme
As a farmworker, Estela Martinez makes a living by spending her days in Florida’s punishing heat. She usually dons a light shirt and a thin jacket and takes multiple bottles of water with her to the fields, while using the slow-moving tractors for shade from the scorching sun.
But lately, her work has become more unbearable as extreme temperature records pile up. Several record-high temperatures have been set across the state since the beginning of June. Meanwhile, brutal humidity, on top of it, has made it more difficult for the body to cool itself.
Every day is now a tiring and dangerous exercise for farmworkers like Martinez. But outdoor workers are just one of the groups for which summer is now more than just a season. The heat is even more deadly for the poor, elderly, communities of colour and those experiencing homelessness.
Cooling Centres Have Become “Respite Centres”
Homeless Americans make up a significant proportion of the death toll concerning extreme temperatures. Most of these painful demises are known to occur outdoors. Phoenix’s first chief heat officer is, therefore, taking a different approach to keeping residents safe.
As Pheonix continues to face a potentially record-breaking heatwave, the city is now calling cooling centres “respite centres” to make it clear to people that they are welcome to sleep and rest during the scorching weather.
Concerningly, Kristina Dahl, climate scientist with the Union of Concerned Scientists, said many farmworkers tend to get paid for how much they harvest – stressing the need for authorities to protect their wages so they aren’t compelled to choose between health and paychecks.