Climate, worker, and housing injustice all intersect in Imperial County, California, High Country News reports. Also known as “America’s Winter Garden” it is by far the hottest county in the West, and also the region’s most Latino (more than 85% of residents identify as Hispanic or Latino. Imperial has seen at least 117 days so far this year with temperatures over 100°F, and in the border county dependent upon immigrant farmworkers, more than one-in-five Imperial residents live in poverty, and just one-third do not have air conditioning.
In addition, more than 22% of elementary school children have asthma caused or exacerbated by the heat, agricultural dust and truck traffic, as well as the region’s smog-trapping topography.
All of these factors force workers — outdoor workers are 35 times more likely to die from heat — to choose between putting their own health at risk and being able to put food on the table. “Just having the concern and uncertainty can trigger asthma, high blood pressure and other cardiovascular impacts … it reduces quality of life” said Luis Olmedo, head of the farmworker-founded Comité Civico del Valle. (High Country News; Climate Signals background: Extreme heat and heatwaves)