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tv   Matter of Fact With Soledad O Brien  NBC  August 21, 2022 5:00am-5:30am PDT

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announcer: right now on "matter of fact," why are more kids in distressed neighborhoods struggling to breathe? >> we were driving to the doctor, my asthma got more bad and more bad. soledad: oooh, that must have been scary. announcer: soledad talks with a bronx mom worried for her son as researchers gather data on the link between climate change and childhood asthma. plus, remembering baseball legend roberto clemente. >> he had a saying that if you have a chance to help others and failed to do so, you're wasting your time on this earth. how many athletes have you heard say that? right? announcer: we look back at the life and death of the man many call baseball's last hero.
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and teachers -- worn out and fed up. >> i had my dignity and self-worth being whittled away daily. announcer: hundreds of thousands calling it quits. >> i said, i can't do this anymore. i matter too. announcer: can this former teacher's story help explain the mass exodus from america's schools? ♪ soledad: i'm soledad o'brien. welcome to "matter of fact." it's no secret that climate change is affecting every corner of the world. but that impact isn't being felt equally. an environmental protection agency report found underserved communities are more vulnerable to heat waves, flooding, and poor air quality. plus, 34% of black americans are more likely to live in areas with the highest projected increases in childhood asthma. in a first of a series of reports, "matter of fact" is teaming up
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with to look at how these vulnerable communities are affected. when octavia jones leaves her home in the bronx in new york city, she notices what they're leaving behind -- the heat. >> we have family that live outside of new york city and when we go to visit, even in the summertime, i feel like it's hotter here in the city. and it is even stuffy for me, i can only imagine what it's like for tristen, who has trouble with breathing. soledad: tristen is octavia's 8-year-old son. he's prone to acute asthma attacks -- hi. i'm soledad, so nice to meet you. come on, i'll buy you an ice cream cone. especially when there's drastic changes in temperature. so you had a bad asthma attack back a couple of months ago, right? can you tell me about that one? what happened? >> well, we were driving to the doctor, my asthma got more bad and more bad. soledad: oooh, that must have been scary. >> we were in the hospital for six days until they were able to control the wheezing. soledad: wow, that was a bad one.
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new york city has one of the highest rates of childhood asthma in the country. in the south bronx, there were 647 asthma-related emergency room visits for every 10,000 children in 2018. that's triple the rate of 223 asthma visits made by children citywide. so, when octavia heard that a new study was looking to find out why, she volunteered to help. >> so on our teams of community scientists, there would be two, one would be the driver and the other would be responsible for the sensor. soledad: jolie villegas is part of a team running the study at columbia university's earth institute, which is working to measure the temperature disparities between poor and wealthy communities. so how does this sensor work? >> so this sensor will fire every second, it'll take air in and then the sensor here will measure it. soledad: volunteer "community scientists," like octavia jones drove the sensors around on
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their cars -- some through the bronx, one of the poorest per capita areas and others through the upper east side of manhattan, one of the wealthiest. so, for people who aren't new yorkers, the upper east side is not very far from here. i mean, it's only a few miles. were there giant disparities in the heat and the humidity? >> yes, especially within lower areas of the south bronx. soledad: the study revealed that the south bronx was hotter, as much as 7 degrees hotter than manhattan's wealthier upper east side -- at the same time of the day. heat and humidity in an already polluted area make the air more dense and make asthma worse. >> there's a highway, there's a highway. soledad: dr. melissa barber is a community activist with south bronx unite, which organizes residents to demand more green spaces that scientists say reduce the heat. >> we have a lot of truck traffic coming in. we have concrete slabs. we have one of the highest
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concentrations of new york public housing. soledad: concentrated pollution, along with rising temperatures, creates toxic smog. that's the story of the bronx, where octavia ended up fighting to change things for her son. why did you want to volunteer to be a citizen scientist and help with the heat index project? >> i wanted to show my children that we should want to help out in our community. i want to be a part of whatever it's going to take for children coming after him to not have to deal with the same severity that he has. soledad: in just a few weeks, we'll look at look at how one community organization is addressing the connection between climate change and food waste. they are sending an army of bikers to transport waste to solar powered composting facilities -- an effort they hope will spread across the country.
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announcer: next on "matter of fact, extreme heat is putting extreme stress on the nation's power grid. >> the whole world is becoming so much more dependent on electricity that even a moment without power is is a real problem for people. announcer: what's the fix for a system struggling to keep up with demand? and still ahead, the legacy of baseball great roberto clemente. >> he was a trailblazer in terms of pushing for equal rights, for human rights, for dignity, for the dignity of all latinos. ♪ coarse hair thin skin when i'm shaving down there not just any razor will do venus for pubic hair and skin with a patented irritation defense bar for a smooth shave with blades that barely touch skin hi, i'm eileen. i live in vancouver, washington and i write mystery novels.
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soledad: last month was one of the three hottest julys on record around the world. that extreme heat is putting a strain on america's power grid. in may, the biden administration announced a $2.5 billion plan to modernize and expand the electrical grid.
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but that's not a quick fix. it means people will likely still endure service interruptions, creating potentially life-threatening situations. jim robb is the ceo of north american electric reliability corporation, which monitors risks to the grid. thank you for talking with me. you have said the system is vulnerable, that in fact, it's dangerously stressed for lay people. what exactly does that mean and how do we get here? >> there are really three things that are affecting the outlook for reliability this summer. and the first and foremost is a weather forecast that's really problematic for the electric grid. it shows elevated temperatures across most of the western two thirds of the continent. and if you couple that with a very dry outlook, meaning continued drought conditions for the for the western two thirds of the continent, that's just a recipe to distress any electric system. and ours has gotten more complicated because the grid itself is going through a
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massive transformation, moving toward low carbon resources like wind and solar. and we're retiring some of the traditional generation that we've grown used to and and studied and understand so much for over the years. soledad: is it getting worse? >> we've been seeing a progression of riskier outlooks for the electric grid for the last four or five years. and part of that is definitely the weather. the other issue that's going on is in the transformation of the grid itself, we're having what we would call a disorderly retirement of older generation, which is happening too quickly soledad: how hard is it to make that transition from fossil fuels to dependency on some other kind of clean energy? >> unfortunately, it's it's very, very complicated. the electric grid in north america is the largest, most complicated machine ever built what we really want to know is that when we flip the light switch, that the lights come on,there's really a miracle of electrical and industrial engineering behind that and the issue we run into with the transition of the grid, particularly towards solar resources, is that solar
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resources don't create naturally create alternating current or ac current. so it has to go through a transformation device called an inverter that that syncs it to the rest of the system. and we need we need to make sure that these inverters work in a way that promote reliability, so i would say that it's different. it's not better or worse. soledad: so tick off for me the biggest sources involved in powering the electric grid. >> the largest single source of power in the us is is natural gas. it's the largest capacity resource that we have. it's followed pretty closely by coal, which is declining pretty significantly. after that, it's nuclear. and then after that we have wind, solar and hydro. soledad: how do you fix it? you've got to keep the power grid going while you're also repairing the power grid and transitioning the power grid. sounds almost impossible. >> i think one of the things that people do sometimes lose
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sight of is that an electric grid at any point in time or the electric sector at any point in time needs to find ways to balance reliability, affordability and its environmental impact. and i think one of the time that when we get in trouble is when we overemphasize one of those three dimensions, as opposed to recognizing that they all need to be worked and thought of in tandem so the whole world is becoming so much more dependent on electricity that even a moment without power is is a real problem for people. soledad: jim robb is the ceo of the north american electric reliability corporation. mr. robb, thank you for talking with me. >> thank you for having me. i appreciate it. announcer: coming up on "matter of fact," when jackie robinson broke baseball's color barrier in 1947, he made way for another trailblazer. >> he was constantly pushing for, for change and for the betterment of regular people.
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announcer: how roberto clemente changed the face of america's
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soledad: august 18 would have been roberto clemente's 88 birthday. clemente was born in carolina, puerto rico in 1934. he was athletic at a young age, and was signed by the dodgers when he was just 18 years old. clemente played 18 seasons in the big leagues, yet many historians say his humanitarian efforts rivaled his career highlights. clemente died in a plane crash almost 50 years ago while taking aid to the people of nicaragua
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following an earthquake. here's special correspondent ray suarez with his story. ray: roberto clemente was part of that first big wave of great latino players who began to populate baseball in the 1950's. at 21, the puerto rican made his major league debut with the pirates. >> he had a saying, that if you have a chance to help others and failed to do so, you're wasting your time on this earth. how many athletes have you heard say that, right? ray: david maraniss of the washington post is clemente's biographer. >> he lived that. he was constantly pushing for, for change and for the betterment of regular people. ray: when he was born in 1934, babe ruth was still wearing yankee pinstripes. but when jackie robinson broke baseball's color barrier in 1947, the door was also swung open for new pioneers -- black players from the spanish-speaking countries of
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the hemisphere. unlike juan marichal of the giants and minnie minoso of the white sox, roberto clemente was born an american citizen, served in the marine corps reserves, and had come north ready to assert his rights. he bridled at the race-based customs that went along with being a black athlete playing in the south. >> clemente was very outspoken about it. when he was with the pirates, the black players in the earliest years would have to stay on the bus while the white guys -- this is in florida, in spring training the white guys would go in and have lunch and clemente said, "i'm not going to be that second-class citizen. if you want us to travel, you have to let us go on our own. we're not going to wait in the back of the bus." he was always constantly pushing for that change. he was a trailblazer in terms of pushing for equal rights, for human rights, for dignity, for the dignity of all latinos, for the pride of place, for breaking against the stereotypes. ray: he was befriended by martin luther king, who visited him on his farm in puerto rico. >> he certainly was admired by martin luther king. and that might have developed in a way had king lived and clemente lived, sort of connecting those two worlds in a in a much stronger way. ray: like king, clemente died
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young. just 38 years old. it's the manner of his death that would vault him beyond anything he accomplished on a baseball diamond. >> to help the distressed people of nicaragua. ray: nicaragua, where only a few weeks before, clemente had coached a winter baseball tournament, suffered a devastating earthquake. the pirates star immediately began organizing relief missions for the stricken country. in desperation and in haste, he acquired a poorly maintained plane out of san juan on new year's eve, 1972. >> it was loaded by volunteers who didn't know how to load a plane. it was overloaded by several thousand pounds. the owner didn't even know how to fly it, he drove it into a ditch. clemente gets on that plane, determined to get to nicaragua, and it was a death trap. it barely got off the ground. it crashed into the sea. >> it's not that we've just lost
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a great ballplayer, we've lost a great man. you know he's remembered for things he was doing off the field, especially here in his home country. ray: maraniss calls clemente, "baseball's last hero." the game has already named an award for him, given to the player who shows the greatest commitment to community service. marcos breton of the sacramento bee is the author of "home is everything: the latino baseball story." >> clemente best exemplified the experience of players from latin america who played our game, overcame discrimination in their day and did not allow that discrimination to detract from the excellence that they brought and so i think it begins with retiring 21.
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not just for who clemente was, but for what he represented. announcer: you can watch more stories of trailblazers, troublemakers and dreams featured in our recent "matter of fact" listening tour by going to our website, ]announcer: ahead on "matter of fact," meet an oklahoma teacher who spent 35 years in the same school district. >> i live to teach. i would spring out of bed my whole career, i couldn't wait to get to school. announcer: what can we learn from her decision to leave thegt
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5:22 am soledad: schools across the country are facing a harsh reality. a teacher shortage so severe that it's crippling some districts. many say the stress of teaching
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through a pandemic is driving teachers away from classrooms. according to a recent survey by rand corporation, nearly one in four teachers said that they were likely to leave their jobs by the end of the 2020-2021 school year. one of those teachers is rebecca harris, who taught in the tulsa, oklahoma public schools for more than three decades. we asked her to reflect on her profession and her decision to walk away. >> i live to teach. i would spring out of bed my whole career, i couldn't wait to get to school. i'd stay late till 10:00, me and the custodian. 35 years in the same district. i took my early retirement just this last june. that was my last day in the district.
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35 years in the same district. and basically, i took my early retirement because, okay, i couldn't teach anymore. our broken society had given rise to more actions by the students that ended up showing violence, abuse, to the point where i wasn't teaching anymore. i was running a social services office. i had my dignity and self-worth being whittled away daily. that's not a good way to live. and i just finally, i said, i can't do this anymore. our schools need to change with society. i keep listening to all of these solutions to what we should do and nothing is ever addressed. yet the teachers all know it, that i can't teach anymore because our children are broken. no fault of them. they're trying their best. the teachers deserve more. they're leaving in the masses and the students deserve for their needs to be addressed too. announcer: next on "matter of fact." soledad: we salute the humble earthworm. how this slithering creature is
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soledad: and finally, we salute the humble earthworm. just a few inches long, this creature is helping farmers save water and minimize their carbon footprint. imagine a system of containers filled with hundreds of thousands of earthworms. now add contaminated water and let the earthworms do what comes naturally. the worms eat the polluted solids in the water and then poop out a bacteria that is a purifying agent. after two more levels of filtration, the cleansing process is complete. the result? clean, reusable water. that's good news for water-dependent industries like dairy farms and vineyards. how sustainable is the process? well, earthworms are the gift that keeps on giving. over their six-year lifespan, they'll produce thousands of new worms -- proving that one person's slippery aversion is another's eco-friend. that's it for this edition of
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"matter of fact." i'm soledad o'brien. we'll see you next week. soledad: -- announcer: listen to "matter of fact" with soledad o'brien on your favorite podcast provider. watch us during the week on fyi, pluto and youtube. ♪ [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit]
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today, a special edition of "asian pacific america" focusing on some of our favorite authors, including abe gail hing wen author of "love boat." and also an author in the uc system, and also, polly chin author of "the rallying cry." and then we end up with a


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