Cautionary Tales – Chicago when it sizzles

1st July, 2022

July 1995. A deadly heat wave gripped Chicago – bridges buckled; the power grids failed; and the morgue ran out of space – but some neighbourhoods saw more deaths than others. Of course, richer and leafier districts suffered less, but poor places where social interaction was difficult and loneliness a problem were hit hardest of all.   

Does the Chicago heat wave teach us that in dealing with climate change we need to consider not just physical infrastructure, but social infrastructure too?  

Cautionary Tales is written by me, Tim Harford, with Andrew Wright. It is produced by Ryan Dilley, with support from Courtney Guarino and Emily Vaughn.

The sound design and original music is the work of Pascal Wyse. Julia Barton edited the scripts.

Thanks to the team at Pushkin Industries, including Mia Lobel, Jacob Weisberg, Heather Fain, Jon Schnaars, Carly Migliori, Eric Sandler, Emily Rostek, Royston Beserve, Maggie Taylor, Nicole Morano, Daniella Lakhan and Maya Koenig.

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Further reading and listening

Eric Klinenberg Heat Wave

Mike Thomas “Chicago’s Deadly 1995 Heat Wave: An Oral History.” Chicago Magazine

Judy Pasternak “Heat Wave’s Final Chapter is Cold, Lonely” LA Times, 26 August 1995

Jane Jacobs Dark Age Ahead

Mike Thomas “Chicago’s Deadly 1995 Heat Wave: An Oral History.” Chicago Magazine

Mike Royko ”KILLER HEAT WAVE OR A MEDIA EVENT?” Chicago Tribune 18 July 1995

Malcolm Gladwell “Political Heat” The New Yorker 4 August 2002

Kopp, Buzan and Huber “The Deadly Combination of Heat and Humidity” The New York Times 7 June 2015

Alexandra Witze “Racism is magnifying the deadly impact of rising city heatNature 14 July 2021

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