Treeless, breezeless tracts of hot concrete and pavement within cities have become known as urban heat islands.
A growing body of research shows that people of color and people living below poverty levels are stuck in these islands, much more so than their white and wealthier counterparts. The disparity is most pernicious during the summer, when extreme heat waves are becoming more common and lasting longer.
“It’s due to something wider, more pernicious and systemic,” says climate scientist Angel Hsu of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “It’s environmental racism.” Busy roadways and factories that heat the air are often placed in low-wealth communities of color, which lack the economic and political power to keep such things out.