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The Climate Crisis and the Housing Crisis: How Extreme Weather Events Impact Vulnerable Communities

The climate crisis and the housing crisis are intrinsically linked, and this connection is becoming more evident than ever as extreme weather events come to British Columbia. The fire season this year was unprecedented, with massive wildfires impacting a large area of the province and smoke spreading even further. Orange skies and hazy days have become a late summer norm in Vancouver, and while many of us can retreat indoors to stay away from the harmful particles, those who are housing insecure don’t have the same luxuries.

This is one of many extreme weather events that continues to impact our vulnerable communities. Extreme heat and cold events are also increasing in frequency. The western heat dome in 2021 was the deadliest weather event in Canada’s history and primarily impacted those with chronic health conditions including substance use disorder, depression, schizophrenia, and respiratory issues.

With winter approaching, and temperatures predicted to fall below freezing, those who are housing insecure will face health and safety challenges on a regular basis. Prolonged exposure to cold often results in hypothermia when the body cannot warm faster than it is cooling. Adding rain to the mixture only exacerbates the problem, especially when there is limited access to warm, dry spaces.

Focusing the lens on the climate crisis, there are many issues that need to be addressed. Across the globe communities are coming together in protest against fossil fuels, advocating instead for clean energy in an effort to combat climate change. Vancouver has implemented its own Climate Emergency Action Plan with the goal of reducing carbon emissions by 50% in the next decade, and becoming completely carbon neutral by 2050.

It is imperative that any plan to address the climate crisis includes vulnerable communities, as they are the ones who are facing the most extreme fallout from these extreme weather events. Compassion and care are pillars of mutual aid, and centering these communities will allow for meaningful change that addresses the climate crisis head on.

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