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Editor's Note: The environment can't be ignored

A haze is still lingering over sections of the region as a result of wildfires that continue to burn in parts of Canada, but a sign showing poorer than usual air quality in St. Louis caught our newsroom's attention a bit before we began covering the impact of the fires locally.

You may have also noticed the red sign alerting the public of unhealthy air quality earlier this month if you drove by the St. Louis Science Center on I-64. We wanted to follow up with health and pollution experts to figure out what the warnings meant for residents — especially those at risk. Our reporting found that the alert cautioning poor air quality came much earlier in the season than expected and would likely be more common through the summer.

Over the month, our newsroom and our news partners have had a heightened awareness around the health and safety of residents due to changes in our climate.

Our partners in the Midwest Newsroom discovered that hospitals in the Midwest were seeing an increase in respiratory cases because of wildfire smoke. A report from the River City Journalism Fund found that worsening heat is turning St. Louis into an urban heat island where older people, people with disabilities, low-income residents, and Black residents suffer the most. And it’s not just heat that could worsen for residents under climate change, it’s also flooding according to the second part of RCJF’s reporting series.

Reporting shows that not only does flooding worsen with climate change, droughtdoes, too, which is concerning to residents, state and local leaders, and to farmers who depend on fertile soil for healthy crop yields. That means that people in our region are striving to come up with solutions that could solve these developing climate issues.

I realize, though, that we’ve heavily relied on our existing staff and our news partners in covering climate and environmental issues this month and over the last several months. To make covering the environment a priority, I have to make filling our environmental reporting position a priority as well. While I acknowledge that vacancy is a huge shortcoming, I’m tremendously proud of the reporting we’ve featured on the devastating impact fluctuations in climate have on the communities we cover.

You can help us cover climate issues better. If you know of issues in the St. Louis region, Quincy, and/or Rolla that affect the quality of land, water, or air please reach us at feedback@stlpr.org

Ashley Lisenby is the news director of St. Louis Public Radio.