Last week, Seattle temperatures reached into the 90s, a sweltering indication that the long-awaited summer had arrived. And for many, it was already too much. But, all complaints aside, the increase in temperature can turn dangerous quickly if safety is not kept in mind. Cooling centers throughout the area are designated to protect people from heat-related illnesses, like heat exhaustion and heat stroke. With extreme heat continuing to become common “with more than two weeks of 90 degree (F) days likely each summer,” according to the City of Seattle’s Projected Climate Changes, the need to provide resources to beat the heat is a matter of public health.
As I write, we are exiting the longest heat wave in Pacific Northwest history. Last year, we watched freeways buckle from the heat. BIPOC elders died in South End homes with no air-conditioning. Millions of shellfish cooked to death at low tide. In four short years, we’ve added “Fire Season” to our calendars, witnessed historic and devastating floods across the state, and watched an endangered Southern Resident killer whale carry her dead calf for 17 days. With each occurrence, the City, County, and State have issued declarations about the urgency with which we must respond to climate change.
A tradition built around fossil-fuel-guzzling, exhaust-spewing jets and boats is not in line with those declarations.
A round-up of news and announcements we don’t want to get lost in the fast-churning news cycle!
curated by Vee Hua 華婷婷
After an especially scorching week and with more to come, today’s News Gleams center on health and the environment. Read on about unexpected but ambitious progress on national climate change legislation, Audubon Society’s anti-racist name change, and COVID-19 updates on a city, county, and national level.
—Vee Hua 華婷婷, interim managing editor for the South Seattle Emerald
As we prepare for this summer’s wildfire season in King County and throughout the state, it’s essential to track disproportionate impacts on People of Color, folks living in poverty, young children and older adults, and people with underlying health conditions, like asthma and cardiovascular disease. These impacts are well-documented, but a new report shows that pregnant people are also at risk when air is unhealthy to breathe, and the toll can be even greater when other factors, like poverty, converge with expecting a baby.
South Jackson Street’s King Street Station is an iconic landmark for Seattle history as an entry point for Chinese immigrants and Black migrants in the early 1900s. A bustling transit center today, the station is also a lively arts space and gallery hosted by the Seattle Office of Arts & Culture — ARTS at King Street Station. The nickname rings true as a warm invitation to its public arts space and for showing some love to underrepresented artists.
Since time immemorial, Indigenous people have celebrated storytelling as a way to connect the present to past lessons and future dreaming. Narrative sovereignty is a form of land guardianship, and Nia Tero supports this work through its storytelling initiatives, including the Seedcast podcast, as well as in this monthly column for media partner the South Seattle Emerald.
Content Warning: This piece includes references to the experience of attending Indigenous boarding schools in the United States and the aftermath of catastrophic weather events.
When I introduce myself, I start with the most important: I’m a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. I grew up in Indian Territory, often referred to as Oklahoma. I currently live on the traditional homelands of the Duwamish peoples, now known as West Seattle. Then, if there’s time, I share a little about my job and life experience. I’m a lawyer, a family physician, a father and grandfather, and I’m managing director, Programs at Nia Tero based in Coast Salish Territory.
This weekend’s read is an updated report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) on their latest predictions for sea level rise through the rest of this century due to climate change. If that sounds, well, dry, I can assure you that it has very wet implications for the coastal United States, including here in Washington. But this new report is also interesting because, according to NOAA, both the current empirical measurements of actual sea level rise and the computer models of future rise have converged, resulting in a much narrower range of predictions than the last report five years ago.
In September 2019, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan signed a law that would tax home heating oil sold within the city and could eventually require residents to upgrade or decommission their heating oil tanks by 2028. The legislation was introduced to meet the City’s climate goals by hastening the transition to cleaner electric home heating across the city. It was also lauded in a mayoral press release as a “bold and thoughtful approach” to environmental policy that “help[s] our most vulnerable residents move off heating oil.” Revenue from the tax is intended to fund rebates for homeowners and help provide 1,000 fully paid electric heat pump installations for low-income residents.
(This article was originally published on InvestigateWest and has been reprinted under an agreement.)
Acting on international calls to freeze fossil fuel infrastructure, citizen activists working with environmental justice groups and Indigenous nations are pushing local governments to rewrite the rules for building everything from airports and gas stations to industrial zones.
“We were here before the airport was. They forget that,” says Rosario-Maria Medina, a community activist in the South Seattle neighborhood of Georgetown, just north of bustling Boeing Field. When Seattle’s first commercial airport opened in 1928, Georgetown had been a vibrant community for more than half a century.