From Atlantic Cities writer Sarah Goodyear: "When dealing with severe weather events, the type that climate change is making more common, improved infrastructure is important. But the social ties of a neighborhood – the kind of relationships that are nurtured by trips to the corner coffee shop and chats on the sidewalk – might prove equally important when it comes to saving lives. "In a New Yorker article this week (behind a paywall), sociologist Eric Klinenberg looks at the impact that solid, place-based social networks can have on protecting lives in a natural disaster. He takes as his example the Chicago heat wave of July 1995, which killed 739 people.
"But in two adjacent neighborhoods that were demographically nearly identical – mostly black, with high concentrations of poverty and elderly residents -- Klinenberg reports the death rates were vastly different. Englewood recorded a fatality rate of 33 per 100,000 residents. Right next door, Auburn Gresham’s rate was 3 per 100,000. From the New Yorker piece:
The key difference between neighborhoods like Auburn Gresham and others that are demographically similar turned out to be the sidewalks, stores, restaurants, and community organizations that bring people into contact with friends and neighbors. Between 1960 and 1990, Englewood lost fifty per cent of its residents and most of its commercial outlets, as well as its social cohesion…. Auburn Gresham, by contrast, experienced no population loss in that period. In 1995, residents walked to diners and grocery stores. They knew their neighbors. They participated in block clubs and church groups….
"As cities prepare for climate change in earnest, they’re going to need to harden infrastructure, change building patterns, and overhaul government emergency procedures. But they’re also going to have to put a greater value on the human connections that can be found in walkable neighborhoods where people know each other and support local businesses." Full article here, Klineberg article here, and related paper here.