Key concepts: Viridian design contest, lethal summer heat

Attention Conservation Notice: It's another in our series of design contests.


Extreme Weather Events: The Health and Economic Consequences of the 1997/98 El Nino and La Nina Harvard Medical School

Record Year for Weather-Related Disasters, Vital Signs Brief 98-5

Climate and health medical perspective in SCIENCE magazine:

The extraordinary summer heat of 1999 is killing people in the American East Coast and Midwest. We haven't yet had a dire event to match the 600-person Greenhouse massacre during the Chicago Heat Wave of 1995, but that's because city managers are now getting used to the idea that summer is lethal.

Heatwave deaths are highest among two classes, the elderly and the poor. The elderly poor are at especial risk. They can't afford air conditioning. Since they're old, they're absent-minded, they have poor eyesight and limited mobility. Being poor, they're commonly semiliterate. Plus, they're set in their ways. Old people spent most of their extensive lifespans living in a stable climate. They're just not mentally prepared for the climate of the 1990s, where a single year usually wreaks more violent weather havoc than an entire 20th century decade.

There is therefore a Viridian public service niche for a simple, blatant, very large, circus-poster which bluntly informs elderly urban residents that today's unnatural heat will kill them.

This poster should not be some arty, elaborate Viridian lithograph. Like a polio or smallpox quarantine sign, it's for use in public health emergencies. It needs to be as simple and effective as possible. You have to imagine your target audience as someone who barely reads English, and has no tolerance for multi-part technical lectures, Kyoto tracts, or hip, ironic in-jokes. The target audience wears trifocals, or perhaps has had a recent cataract operation. This poster is meant for someone for whom a trip to the grocery store is a serious physical challenge. Someone for whom a flight of stairs can mean a respiratory attack. You have to catch their watery eye and hold it, and get the warning across in simple, bright patterns.

When you have created the text and graphics of your Summer Health Warning poster, put it on the web and send me the address. I will post it to the Viridian list.

And now for the valuable contest prize. The winner of the Viridian Summer Health Warning Contest will receive a handsome, tasteful Texan cowboy hat, highly suitable gear for blistering, semi-tropical sun exposure. This chapeau will purchased from an Austin, Texas, Western-wear store, in your own personal hat size. It will be shipped to you in a stout cowboy hatbox.

The deadline for this contest is: September 1, 01999. Good luck!

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