Heatscapes: Miami's Urban Heat Island Effect

Heatscapes catalogs Miami's urban heat island effect by telling a story about the communities in Miami that face extreme heat the worst, how the urban and natural environment affects their livelihood, and how they are adapting to change.

Miami, known for its vibrant diverse culture and landscapes, is facing a growing threat that intensifies each passing year: extreme heat. The statistics paint a stark reality - in the summer of 2021 alone, Miami experienced a staggering 60 days with temperatures at or above 90°F. The relentless heat and high humidity have transformed Miami into a hotbed for heat-related health risks, making it one of the most vulnerable cities in the world. "Urban heat islands" occur when cities replace natural land cover with dense concentrations of pavement, buildings, and other surfaces that absorb and retain heat. Neighborhoods with higher temperatures in Miami coincide with historically "redlined" areas, mainly composed of people of color and other immigrant minorities like myself. With gentrification catalyzing a slew of construction, these low-income neighborhoods lose canopy coverage, and in return, gain heat.

I capture the anthropological, cultural, and environmental impact of extreme heat in Miami, where I grew up and live, shedding light on the unequal distribution of heat burdens, the challenges faced by communities, and the urgent need for adaptation and resilience. Through the lens of my camera, I aim to document the stories, struggles, and resilience of Miami's communities as they confront the heat crisis and work towards a more sustainable and equitable future. The questions I am exploring are: How are Miamians adapting to extreme heat? Which communities are more greatly affected by heat, and how does that relate to their urban situation and canopy coverage? What are the untold stories of immigrants to the city as they navigate climate change? What parallels can I draw between the warm culture of Miami and the extreme heat it is facing?

As a photographer and landscape architect, I create images which fuse the natural and built environments, the relationships between livelihood and tree canopy coverage, and the social disparities which heat unveils. The series catalogs the melting pot of people and cultures that make Miami unique, a mix of warmth both physically and emotionally. Being the largest Haitian and LatinX diaspora in the world, Miami fuels the background of my work, in a way that is authentic to my upbringing as a South American immigrant to the city.