When I asked a new Las Vegas resident who recently moved here from Florida why they chose our city, the response was, “We wanted to move someplace where there are no natural disasters because our home in Florida was destroyed by an extreme hurricane.”
Many Nevadans share the belief that our state is immune to natural disasters. After all, our homes are not being destroyed by climate-driven extreme weather events, so how serious can it be? And yet, we are not immune. Climate change is creating long-term natural disasters that are affecting the health, safety and quality of life for all Nevadans, even if the images are less dramatic than a hurricane.
Lisa Ortega, known locally as the Nevada Tree Lady, fell in love with trees and the people who professionally work with them. She and her volunteers have planted over 400 trees all over Nevada, both for their carbon-capturing prowess and their positive effects on reducing urban heat islands.
“The urban heat island kills,” she told me. “There have been 568 heat-related deaths in Southern Nevada between 2009 and 2018, and those are only the documented cases. Heat plays a major role in sickness when coupled with other medical conditions, including age and pregnancy. As the temperature of our desert environment creeps to 110 degrees and higher, the urban heat island adds another seven degrees to neighborhoods.”
She also noted the impact of hotter summers and urban heat islands on Nevada’s children and their ability to play outside.
“The Southern Nevada Water Authority measured a change between shade and hardscape at a 17-degree difference. Hearing the temperature difference and seeing the map doesn’t drive home what it feels like to live there. Most notably, kids don’t play outside. I’ve seen tears flow from residents when they experience remediation through the trees we plant in these neighborhoods. They know it changes their lives for the better by creating outdoor space that is bearable. Just one tree shading the south- or west-side window lowers the electric bill considerably, and that cooler calming shade enables a life outside. Trees capture harmful carbon, attract wildlife, protect us from UV waves, air pollution and of course, the summer heat.”
We are on the ground planting trees to increase shade and help cool down neighborhoods. With your help, we can do even more. Click below to make a contribution.