“Best & Worst” cities for climate change: We need to ditch these lists

Ah yes, yet another article based on a “study” listing “Best & Worst” cities for climate change. (There are tons of these articles coming out all the time; this just happened to be the one a friend inboxed me this morning.)

First thing that struck me: The so-called “safest” places on the list are cities like San Francisco, Seattle … places where no ordinary person could afford to move.

My take, in general: The entire planet is in bad shape for climate change. Every place is at risk.

I live in a place I love, in a community I love, am here to do as much good as I can. That to me is the closest thing we have to security in this life.

Right now, in my corner of the world, relentless sun and no rain are wearing on those of us who pay attention to such things. I’m trying to use this as an opportunity to boost awareness in my community, motivate fellow citizens and local government to shift our landscaping practices to prioritize heat mitigation (shade, stormwater absorption), food-growing.

Our mainstream cultural norms are infected through-and-through by a colonizer mentality. Colonizer culture conditioning is deep-rooted; we like to think we can control everything by making lists of “most safe” and “least safe” places etc. And then simply pick up and go there.

The past few years should have taught us something about all of that.

Colonizer culture mentality: Oh no! My home city is listed as unsafe! Oh well — I’ll just pick up and move, go colonize one of the places listed as “safe.”

No concept of social capital whatsoever. Rich people are used to not having to know or care who their neighbors are.

Ditto loyalty to place — no concept of whatsoever of loyalty to land or a place. (Google Wes Jackson, declaring oneself native to a place for some good reading.) Here you go, I just grabbed the link for you: “Becoming Native To This Place,” by Wes Jackson; centerforneweconomics.org.

This aspect of our culture just really nauseates me and saddens me.

As I read the list of “most dangerous” cities for climate change, they are places like Houston, New Orleans, Tampa. Places with high concentrations of poverty. And very multicultural, multiracial cities. And, places where a substantial percentage of the population cannot afford to just pick up and leave.

Interestingly enough, the “climate-unsafe” cities tend to be places that have a high rate of poverty, but a strong fabric of multigenerational community and mutual aid. Hmm, now what might that connection be, between poverty — and strong community, strong networks of mutual aid? (Rhetorical question.)

(Note: I am not wishing poverty on anyone, or proposing poverty as a solution to hyper-individualistic culture.)

An article that would have impressed me is, “Here is a list of the top cities most likely to be deeply affected by climate change — AND here are some things we can and should be doing to help make those cities safer for the people who live there — or help the people find ways to move their families & communities to safer places.”

For individuals not deeply rooted anywhere, my best advice is find a place where you can stand the climate (without having to rely on climate-controlling your house most of the year) AND where you are able and willing to be an active helping member of the community. Do not move ANYWHERE with just the attitude of “escaping where you are now.” Move somewhere with the intent to love the place, become bioregionally literate, and contribute actively to the community. And well before you move to a place, check out the community (via activist channels, online information resources, etc.), to be sure you will be helping that place rather than colonizing or gentrifying. You could even start forming ties, participating and helping, before you move there.