cities | October 26, 2016

Eric Klinenberg in the New Obama-Edited Issue of Wired: On the Power of Community in Overcoming Climate Change

The new issue of WIRED magazine—which focuses on new frontiers in technology—was guest-edited by President Barack Obama. Featured in the magazine is a piece by social scientist and Lavin speaker Eric Klinenberg, who raises an interesting argument: In combating climate change, community may be just as important as infrastructure.


In the feature, NYU professor Klinenberg writes about a sociological study he conducted, wherein he examined relative death rates in Chicago neighborhoods during the heat wave of 1995, which killed 739 residents. He found that neighborhoods with similar levels of poverty and crime—like Englewood and Auburn Gresham—had vastly different casualty levels. The x-factor? Something sociologists call “social infrastructure”—essentially, a block’s propensity to stick together. 


“Places with active commercial corridors, a variety of public spaces, local institutions, decent sidewalks, and community organizations fared well in the disaster,” Klinenberg writes. “More socially barren places did not. Turns out neighborhood conditions that isolate people from each other on a good day can, on a really bad day, become lethal.” He’s no stranger to the subject, either; his book Heat Wave explores the disaster in greater detail. He’s also written, for The New Yorker, about climate-proofing cities in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.


With climate change all but guaranteeing an escalation in natural disasters, social infrastructure should not be forgotten.


To book cities and climate change speaker Eric Klinenberg to speak at your organization’s next event, contact The Lavin Agency speakers bureau.

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