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The Street-by-Street Battle Against Climate Change

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Our climate is changing, and our approaches to politics and activism have to change with it. That’s why The Nation, in partnership with the Food & Environment Reporting Network, has launched “Taking Heat,” a series of dispatches from the front lines of the climate-justice movement, by journalist Audrea Lim.

In “Taking Heat,” Lim explores the ways in which the communities that stand to lose the most from climate change are also becoming leaders in the climate resistance. From the farms of Puerto Rico to the tar sands of Canada, from the streets of Los Angeles to Kentucky’s coal country, communities are coming together to fight for a just transition to a greener and more equitable economy. At a time when extreme-weather events and the climate-policy impasse are increasingly dominating environmental news, “Taking Heat” focuses on the intersection of climate change with other social and political issues, showcasing the ingenious and inventive ways in which people are already reworking our economy and society. Follow along here.

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Adan Palermo’s street, in Brooklyn’s Sunset Park neighborhood, was always his playground. As a child, the tranquil stretch of row houses, between the six-lane 4th Avenue thruway and the eternal shadow of the elevated Gowanus Expressway, was a place for him and his friends to hit baseballs with plastic bats.

Since 2017, the 26-year-old has also been its “block captain,” a role that emerged after Superstorm Sandy brought New York City to a week-long standstill, and the task of identifying neighborhood point-people ahead of emergencies began to seem more urgent. “We’re already close to the water,” he said. And the climate crisis promises to bring more extreme weather disasters to his street, located half a mile from New York Bay, whose waters inundated the nearby neighborhood of Red Hook after Sandy. “Our folks are already at a disadvantage. Sunset Park is a low-income community.”

The “block captain” initiative is part of the Sunset Park Climate Justice Center, which the community organization UPROSE established by popular demand at a series of neighborhood meetings following Sandy. The neighborhood, with its mix of Puerto Rican, Dominican, Ecuadorian, Mexican, and Chinese residents, is one of New York City’s six Significant Maritime and Industrial Areas—areas where polluting industries have historically been clustered, and where the city intends to continue clustering them. All are located in storm-surge areas. Also, all are predominantly low-income communities of color.

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