“It’s getting harder and harder”: Rafael’s story

Raphael has lived in Erskine Park in Sydney’s Western Suburbs for 22 years. He was a chemist and is now retired. He spoke to Sweltering Cities’ Community Campaigner about his experiences in Western Sydney.  

Over the past 22 years I’ve seen more factories, more cleared land and trees cut down. When developments happen they don’t look at the impacts on the local environment, like whether the factories bring more trucks to our local roads. There used to be a lot more trees when I moved here, now there is a lot more concrete. I don’t see how the warehouses can all be air conditioned, so it must be very hot inside with trucks coming in and out.

The industrial area in Erskine Park near Rafael’s house

In summer when I’m gardening or working in my backyard I wear a wet towel on my shoulders. Inside we use air con or fans, but you’ve got to think of the cost. I’m not in a position to have it on all the time so I turn it off as soon as I can. We have fights about it, the kids want to leave it on all the time. Also, with the humidity, the air con doesn’t make enough of a difference. 

There isn’t enough thought about how the heat is impacting our health, or the environmental costs of keeping cool. When we turn on the air con the electricity is coming from coal. 

We’re building houses that aren’t designed to keep cool. So many homes near me have dark roofs that absorb the heat. With the new airport in Western Sydney, people will have to keep their windows closed to block the sound of planes. 

It’s all pushing us in the same direction, it’s getting harder and harder. The heat, the air quality, the developments; people will be pushed out of Western Sydney. 

In the Western Suburbs we’re building with inappropriate materials, so it’s just going to get worse with the heat. 

As a chemist and resident of Western Sydney, I’m concerned about what happens to anything with paints or chemicals that heat up a lot in the sun. These are materials like road surfaces or soft-fall in kid’s playgrounds. We just don’t know what happens to them in the heat. 

Planting more trees would be a huge help. In the park near me they’ve planted more trees which is fantastic, it means more birds, animals and insects, which is good for biodiversity. On the other hand, the planned garbage incinerators for Western Sydney and the rising heat will be bad for biodiversity. 

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