Providence

Climate Migrant

Last month I visited Providence, Rhode Island, getting to know the city. I plan to establish a summer home here next spring. I’ll keep my permanent residence in Austin, but I’ve had it with Texas summers.

I’m a climate crisis refugee. I was born and raised in Texas, and I’ve always been glad of my heat tolerance. I’m comfortable up to 95 degrees. But now we have two months of the year when the mercury shoots up past 100. I’m tired of hearing weather casters tell me not to go outside in the afternoon.

I’m not the first climate migrant. People fleeing drought and flood have been on the move for a generation. It’s global, but it has been mostly a third world movement. Now the first world is beginning to feel it.

It’s possible to ignore the rising heat if you live in air conditioned spaces. But you have to be content to give up summer afternoons. I’m not.

Ironically, that air conditioning that shelters us from the heat outside makes the heat outside worse. The air conditioners use power from plants that exhaust greenhouse gases. And the air conditioners themselves pump heat out to the air. It’s a positive feedback loop. The hotter the environment, the more we use the air conditioner. The more we use the air conditioner, the hotter the environment.

I’m moving away from that loop. Of course, there’s no real escape. There’s another effect. Providence is in the hurricane zone. And with the climate crisis, hurricanes are growing stronger and more numerous.

I took a riverboat tour on the Providence River. The captain told tales of hurricanes past, and he pointed to a gated flood barrier high enough to keep out the flood surge of the worst hurricane on record. But the storms are growing stronger. It’s only a matter of time until a storm surge overwhelms that sea wall. And then another. Then there will be a new wave of climate migrants. More people on the move.

But for now, Providence is a great little city.

(Photos by Robin Cravey unless otherwise noted).

Feature image above: Downtown Providence. Photo by Jeffee Palmer. The city seen from the river.

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