Nevada’s Well-Being Depends on the Wellbeing of People Like Us

Credit: Somos Votantes

By Armando Garcia

April 5, 2024

Like many Southern Nevadans, I was not born here. I am a first-generation Mexican American who grew up in California but who now calls Las Vegas home. When I lived in California, my family would often go out to local parks with huge trees or to the beach to have a day in the sun. Coming from a hard-working immigrant family, saving up to go to a theme park was something that rarely happened, but access to public lands was a luxury we could afford every day. You could not put a price on our family’s happy memories at these places.

When my family moved to Las Vegas in the summer of 2005, I experienced a bit of culture shock with the browns and reds that surround the valley basin; it was not the “green” space that I was used to but the public lands here were just as beautiful. The highest temperature that year was a record-setting 117°.

Even though hard-working Latino families like mine keep Nevada going, we continue to experience the worst impacts of rising heat each summer. Rising heat affects our overall wellbeing, it impacts our health, our homes and most significantly it impacts our wallets and our availability to take care of each other.

I recently volunteered at a community event organized by Somos Votantes, an organization dedicated to empowering people like me to fully participate in our democracy. The event, El Calor Cuesta: Facing Rising Heat Together, was hosted at Freedom Park, a long important green space for many hardworking Latinos, and provided families with resources about how to protect ourselves from the rising heat, how we can lower our electricity bills and what is happening in Nevada to reduce the impact of rising heat.

During the event, families also joined together to plant a tree and highlight how trees, and other green spaces, are essential to reducing the effects of rising heat. Last year, the USDA Forest Service announced that Nevada will receive $15.7 million from the Inflation Reduction Act to fund urban forestry, which includes tree planting and community education.

The event helped shape my understanding of how important our environment is; people often overlook Nevada’s biome because of how different it looks, but every ecosystem plays its part in keeping this Earth healthy, including ours.

Beyond the personal benefit of having accessible public lands to help with physical and mental health, these lands connect us with each other and also protect the world as we know it. Without protection of public lands, our world and the ecosystems that hold it together would be chipped away by urban expansion. Extreme weather would affect us more drastically as well. Without the Las Vegas Wash, how much worse would flash flooding be in Las Vegas? And without green parks throughout the valley, would we reach past our 117° record heat due to the urban heat island effect?

The continuing growth of asphalt and concrete in our valley have shown to make our desert heat worse. Las Vegas has already tied this record in 2013, 2017, and 2021 since it was initially set in 1942. Furthermore, in July 2023, we set a new record for the hottest month ever in Las Vegas with an average daily temperature of 97.3 degrees along with tying with a 1962 record of reaching 110° or higher for ten consecutive days. This kind of extreme weather and heat cannot go on and it cannot be allowed to worsen; we must do our part to curb extreme weather, but it has to be a conscious choice we make in our day-to-day lives.

Ultimately, as a proud Southern Nevadan, I want to see equitable access to and the protection of public lands. Our community should connect with the land around us, as well as the people on it. We need environmentally conscious policies to conserve these lands and to protect our future if we want to keep our current communities livable and safe.



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