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Climate’s Silent Killer? East Boston Extreme Heat Mapping Project

Authors: DEBRA M BUTLER*, University of Massachusetts Boston, Sajani Kandel, University of of Massachusetts Boston
Topics: Urban Geography, Human-Environment Geography
Keywords: urban heat islands, storytelling, participatory GIS
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


In dense urban spaces, unshaded roads and buildings absorb and trap heat during the day, then, radiate heat back into the surrounding air, creating” heat islands”. Heat held inside buildings may be higher than outside temperatures for up to 72 hours.

Not all residents have access to interventions, e.g, parks, cooling stations or emergency shelters, nor can afford air conditioning. People living in densely populated residential housing, those who lack mobility, reliable transportation, or are disabled, medically ill, the old and very young, are dis-proportionally impacted by the lack of realistic or accessible remedies.

This pilot project synthesizes people-of-place narratives and stories with participatory GIS using mobile phone applications to create “story maps”, a transdisciplinary approach bridging people, science and policy. Story maps create new forms of data (which communities own and control), a pathway toward deeper understanding the layered challenges of “lived experiences”. Story maps might be used as a political capital for climate activism, agency, advocacy and adaptation. Neighborhood residents create their own maps, elevating voice to local needs and priorities, and political projects of resilience and resistance.

Our research seeks to understand: How can transdisciplinary approaches and methodologies “place” data to develop just, equitable and humane approaches to climate adaptation? How might the residents of East Boston neighborhoods’ leverage the process of narrative and geospatial mapping to promote holistic understanding that includes all people for whom the city is “home”.
Key words: urban heat islands, storytelling, participatory GIS

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