Confronting environmental racism before, during, and after the coronavirus pandemic
With the COVID-19 pandemic exposing the stark limitations of the United States government and some segments of the population in committing to sustained collective action to solve a problem, climate change and environmental justice have often come to the forefront of the conversation. After all, if the nation has failed so miserably at addressing an acute, relatively time-limited problem like the pandemic, how can we hope to confront slow-rolling crises like climate change and environmental racism in a just, equitable way? For the past several months, Prism has featured work that examines some of those issues. In case you missed it, check out our recent environmental justice coverage.
The literal air Brunswick residents breathe is tainted by racism. Brunswick houses four Superfund sites, and the town has 15 hazardous sites listed on Georgia’s hazardous site inventory; no St. Simons sites are on the list. All but one of Brunswick’s hazardous sites lies within a one-mile radius of a “majority-minority” population.
(David A. Love)
Climate change and pandemics are inextricably linked. The ravages of climate change will result in more pandemics, and both will take more of a toll on communities of color and the poor. Rising temperatures are impacting the migration patterns of disease-carrying animals. As human beings continue their incursion into the natural world—deforestation, extracting natural resources, disrupting wildlife, and dislocating communities for the sake of commercial development and corporate profiteering—we will unleash more microorganisms and create more plagues.
According to estimates by the National Resources Defense Council, one in three Kern, California, residents lives within a mile of an oil or gas well, and 64% of residents who face increased exposure to pollution-related health threats are Latino. Such proximity is known to cause increased risk of asthma and bronchitis, reduced lung functioning, and other respiratory damage. The American Lung Association’s 2020 State of the Air Report ranked Kern County among the worst in the country for its air pollution levels.
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Ashton Lattimore is the editor-in-chief of Prism. Follow her on Twitter @ashtonlattimore.
Prism is a BIPOC-led nonprofit news outlet that centers the people, places and issues currently underreported by our national media. Through our original reporting, analysis, and commentary, we challenge dominant, toxic narratives perpetuated by the mainstream press and work to build a full and accurate record of what’s happening in our democracy. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.