HEAT WAVE ERIC KLINENBERG PDF

Caption: Caption: After a killer heat wave in Chicago, sociologist Eric Klinenberg set out to discover why some neighborhoods fared better than others. Cait Oppermann. In the summer of , a blistering heat wave settled over Chicago for three days. It killed people, making it one of the most unexpectedly lethal disasters in modern American history. No statistical models of the heat wave predicted such a high death toll. Just as mysterious as the number of fatalities was the way they were distributed across the city.

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Caption: Caption: After a killer heat wave in Chicago, sociologist Eric Klinenberg set out to discover why some neighborhoods fared better than others. Cait Oppermann. In the summer of , a blistering heat wave settled over Chicago for three days. It killed people, making it one of the most unexpectedly lethal disasters in modern American history. No statistical models of the heat wave predicted such a high death toll. Just as mysterious as the number of fatalities was the way they were distributed across the city.

Several of the most deadly areas were entirely black and disproportionately poor, but so were three of the least deadly. Scientists who study urban breakdowns like this usually focus on hard-line infrastructure: electrical grids, transit networks, communications systems, water lines, and the like.

The power grid failed, leaving tens of thousands without air conditioning. Roads buckled and drawbridges locked, leading to gridlock and long ambulance response times. As a young sociologist who grew up in Chicago, I wanted to figure out why the heat wave killed who it did, where it did.

Englewood and Auburn Gresham may have looked similar on paper. But when I got to know them at street level, they came to look like different worlds. Englewood had been hemorrhaging for decades: first the employers; next the banks, groceries, and restaurants; finally the people.

During the heat wave, the residents of Englewood tended to hunker down in the safety of their homes—which became brick ovens. Auburn Gresham, on the other hand, never lost its core institutions or its people. Stores, restaurants, community organizations, and churches animated its streets, and people hung out on the sidewalks. Older people there belonged to block clubs; residents assured me they knew who they had to keep tabs on during the heat wave. Auburn Gresham has long been regarded as one of the worst neighborhoods in Chicago; but its death rate, three per ,, was among the lowest in the heat wave—far lower, in fact, than many of the wealthy white neighborhoods across town.

Throughout the city, the variable that best explained the pattern of mortality during the Chicago heat wave was what people in my discipline call social infrastructure. Places with active commercial corridors, a variety of public spaces, local institutions, decent sidewalks, and community organizations fared well in the disaster. More socially barren places did not.

Turns out neighborhood conditions that isolate people from each other on a good day can, on a really bad day, become lethal.

This is important, because climate change virtually guarantees that, in the next century, major cities all over the world will endure longer, more frequent, and more intense heat waves—along with frankenstorms, hurricanes, blizzards, and rising seas. The first instinct of urban leaders is often to harden their cities through engineering and infrastructure, much of which is indeed pretty vital. But research keeps reinforcing the lessons of Englewood and Auburn Gresham.

Building against climate change can either support vibrant neighborhood conditions or undermine them. We know how to do both. When a major electrical substation in the East Village took on 4 feet of water, it exploded and snuffed out power for about , people below midtown.

The outage left some of the most impoverished and some of the most affluent people in the city alike stranded on high floors of apartment buildings without water, electricity, or elevator service for nearly a week.

Like the Chicago heat wave, Sandy turned up evidence for the importance of social infrastructure. Much of the initial response to the storm, however, focused on hard infrastructure. Prominent climate scientists and engineers called for vast, colossally expensive seawalls around big cities and on coast lines. Officials have started to embrace the idea that social infrastructure is as essential to resilience as the built stuff.

Even in pure engineering terms, sea gates and seawalls can impart a false sense of security: They can accelerate coastal erosion, and if they fail, they can fail catastrophically. They also erode the quality of neighborhoods; when an oceanfront area turns into a fortress, people lose their connections to the water, and street life dries up.

Who wants to live behind an enormous seawall? Plus, storm surge has to go somewhere. Who wants to live where the wall ends?

Luckily, officials have started to embrace the idea that social infrastructure is as essential to resilience as the hard stuff. In , I started serving—at the behest of the White House—as the research director for an international competition called Rebuild by Design.

And a major requirement of the competition was that the projects should improve social infrastructure. The six winning plans were announced in The berms, which are People are realizing that when the floods come or the heat wave settles, neighbors are the true first responders. Another winning design—far more low-key and far less expensive—will subtly transform the coastline of Staten Island. Being directly exposed to the Atlantic, Staten absorbed waves so large during Sandy that they tore through communities blocks from the ocean, where no one expected a deluge.

But not all of it. It also links people in the area to each other, with plans for the construction of several cultural and educational hubs along the shore.

Both could get steered off course. But so far the plans have wide support from local and federal offices, and other cities around the world have taken notice. This article appears in our special November issue , guest-edited by President Barack Obama. Subscribe now. Skip Social. Skip to: Latest News. Share Share Tweet Comment Email. Skip Comments. Skip to: Footer. View comments. Submit Thank You. Invalid Email. Follow Us On Facebook Don't miss our latest news, features and videos.

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Heat Wave: A Social Autopsy of Disaster in Chicago

Political Science: Urban Politics. You may purchase this title at these fine bookstores. Outside the USA, see our international sales information. University of Chicago Press: E.

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Access options available:. Social Forces By Eric Klinenberg. University of Chicago Press, Faced with over heat-induced deaths in one hot summer week in Chicago in July of , Heat Wave , by Eric Klinenberg, takes on the sociologically grisly act of asking how and why. This masterful study of the intersection of the political and the ecological reveals just how important it is that sociologists look not just at trends or patterns over time, but at specific events.

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