Monday, July 10, 2023

Save a Life. Open a library.

In his book Heat Wave: A Social Autopsy of Disaster in Chicago, Eric Klinenberg found that having social infrastructure in place was a life-saving mitigation, lowering the risk of death by 80 percent in the heat wave of 1995, the equivalent of having an air conditioner versus not having one. 

In the US, heat kills more Americans than any other weather-related disaster, and the climate crisis has been making these extreme events more deadly. Heat deaths have outpaced hurricane deaths in the country by more than 8-to-1 over the past decade, according to data tracked by the National Weather Service.

The evidence shows that social infrastructure is the most relevant and effective population-wide solution politicians can make. When social infrastructure intersects, such as with public libraries and public transportation, the effects are synergistic.

Public policy can improve lives, and evidence increasingly shows that public policy can save lives. It's time politicians declared a state of emergency and marshalled their policies to create, expand, and maintain as robust a social infrastructure as possible.