Caroline Leland: 2022 Policy Pitch Competition

September 6, 2022 0:03:50
Kaltura Video

Caroline Leland delivers her pitch about her experience at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency during the 2022 Policy Pitch Competition.


Did you know that heat is

the number one
weather-related cause

of death in the United States?

Heat kills more Americans
than hurricanes,

flooding and tornadoes combined.

Growing up in muggy,
eastern North Carolina.

I spent summer days
in my county library.

Not only because I love to read,

but also because their air
conditioning was always on

full blast. I'm from a
pretty hot place,

but I had no idea that

so many Americans die
from heat exposure.

It turns out being
from a rural area

actually protected me from heat

in an important way.

If you look at a literal
heat map of a city,

the metropolis tends
to be an island of

heat surrounded by
cooler rural areas.

This is because concrete
absorbs heat from

the sun and then
slowly releases it.

Whereas trees and vegetation

create shade and cool the air.

Thus, my rural hometown
is likely less hot

than nearby urban areas.

I learned all this through
my summer internship with

EPA's heat island program,

which provides resources
and technical expertise to

local governments
that want to address

issues of heat in
their communities.

I'm interested in policies at

the intersection of human
health and the environment,

which is the exact focus of

the Environmental
Protection Agency, and

it's heat island program.

Additionally, as a well
educated white person,

I feel a deep
responsibility to leverage

my personal privilege to

address inequities
in our society.

I was also attracted to

this internships emphasis
on promoting equity.

What does equity have
to do with heat?

Well, not only are
cities heat islands

compared to surrounding
rural areas,

but neighborhoods within a
city can also form what's

called intra urban heat islands.

Hotter neighborhoods
today where there is

more concrete and
less green space,

tend to be poorer and have
more residents of color.

Many of those same neighborhoods

were historically red lined,

which means that
they suffered for

decades from racist
policies that

deprived them of

important financial investments
and other resources.

In my internship, I
was responsible for

rewriting the EPA
webpage on heat and

equity using clear
and strong language

and the most up-to-date
research findings.

I wrote about the many
risk factors for heat

that fall along
socioeconomic lines.

I described the connection

between red lining
and modern-day

heat and the cascading

for marginalized communities.

I also wrote case studies on
Cincinnati and Los Angeles.

Two cities that are leading on
equitable heat policies.

For example, LA has chosen eight of
its hottest neighborhoods to

have their streets resurfaced
with a cool pavement coding.

And if you're from a
Cincinnati neighborhood

with minimal tree cover,

you get priority access to

an annual tree giveaway program.

Through my internship, I

developed research
and writing skills.

I gained a strong
technical understanding of

heat islands and the policies
that can mitigate them.

I learned about the
ways that a federal

agency like EPA can

support local governments on
specific issues like heat.

I learned about the powers of

municipal governments
and the many,

many steps that go into
every piece of legislation,

no matter its scope.

I'm proud that my
work will inform

future and ongoing heat
mitigation policies.

Hoping cities across
the US to reduce

their heat island and protect

their most at-risk residents.

Looking to the future,

I'm excited to bring my new
skills and knowledge to

my unfolding career in
environmental policy.