A Lethal Climate

The soil bursts into flame,
mercury rising
through fevered trends
to bring another kind
of heat;
a frenzied force
that shoots
to maim and kill.
Collars itching with intent
as triggered fingers
expose fault lines
in how we choose to live –
degrees of harm
unduly falling
on those
already branded
by our febrile,
fatal touch.

A protestor at the March for Our Lives demonstration in New York City, March 24, 2018 (Image Credit: Mathias Wasik for Flickr).

This poem is inspired by recent research, which has found that warm days are contributing to gun violence surges across the United States.

As of 2020, firearms are the leading cause of death for children and adolescents in the United States of America, accounting for 77% of all homicides. Similarly, for every individual who dies from an assault-related firearm injury, another 2 individuals survive with injuries requiring emergency department care, resulting in substantial emotional, physical, and economic pain. Given the scope of this public health crisis, it is therefore vital to better understand the causes that lead to such violent incidences, including the impact that increasing temperatures brought about by a warming climate may be having.

In this new study, researchers found a consistent relationship between higher temperatures and higher risk of shootings in 100 of the United States’ most populated cities. The study used data from the Gun Violence Archive to analyse daily temperatures and more than 116,000 shootings from 2015 to 2020. Considering both seasonality and regional climate differences, the researchers found that almost 8,000 shootings were attributable to above-average temperatures, i.e., nearly 7% of all shootings that took place. The researchers postulate that this correlation between heat and gun violence is likely caused by a combination of two factors. Heat stress making people more likely to use aggression, and the fact that people are more likely to get out on warmer days and have more interactions, thereby creating more opportunities for conflict and violence. As climate change threatens to raise daily temperatures even more, these findings underscore the need for ongoing policies that both acclimate communities to heat and also mitigate the risk of heat-attributable gun violence.

4 thoughts on “A Lethal Climate”

    “This human-induced climate change and war against Ukraine have direct connections and the same roots: they are fossil fuels and humanity’s dependence on them.” –Svitlana Krakovska, Ukrainian climatologist

    The sky of April has collapsed / a bombed overpass
    sodden cement-gray clouds have fallen onto the city

    Now fog drifts are driven across below tower windows
    tattering / moving slowly by like exhausted refugees

    past the still skeletal birches and maples in the park
    no birds / only the tuneless sound-slush of traffic

    and the polyphonic hollow whine of distant machines
    between blank staring cliffs of high-rise apartments

    Elsewhere more northern fog is seared by detonations
    rocket-shriek tearing the faces off cities like this one

    and the wind-dragons wreathing the globe twist and flail
    as slow heat stifles the air with bloated swags of vapor

    Far below them cars slide to and fro in their routine tracks
    like the lies we are still told by the Tar God’s priesthood

    the lies of day by day pretending / as our days diminish
    as the futures we were promised dissolve and boil away

    Adam Cornford

  2. There are the additional factors of economic inequity. If you have enough money to have housing and to afford air conditioning (and heat this time of year), you are less likely to encounter death on the streets. Climate change impacts all levels of society. We can make changes on the local level as well as the global level to create a more hopeful future and a more survivable present. There is a thin veneer of circumstance that separates us. We need to change our perspective to save our home planet and to save our own humanity.


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