Environmental Racism : What We Need to Know?
Unfortunately, climate change affects mostly those who suffer from social disparities, such as people of color, minorities, and low-income groups.
To understand the difficulties faced by ethnic minorities, we must first take a look at what environmental racism is ? The unequal access to a clean environment and basic environmental resources is called Environmental Racism
The minority communities are more likely to live in hazard-prone areas, such as those at risk of coastal storms, droughts, and sea-level rise, thus those communities suffer more from environmental inequalities.
This traces back to the opinion when African workers were considered as “disposable” and were sent to places that were considered too dangerous to work at, for white workers. In developed countries, the authorities also give less attention to areas where minorities live as compared to the neighborhoods where rich and white people live. And so, the pollution burden is also not equally distributed across the countries.
To combat this problem, a social movement named environmental justice got started in the 1980s that aims to work on defective climate policies that have somehow caused harm to low-income groups. It also envisions the formulation of a policy that works to create a sustainable, cooperative, and equal environment for all. It is based on the principle that everyone has a right to a clean environment.
To know more about how Environmental Racism affects the communities, below are mentioned some of the key insights:
Poor Health Quality
Approximately, it is 75% more likely for African-Americans to live in areas of poor air quality in comparison to white people. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 13.4% of African-American children suffer from asthma as compared to only 7.3% of white children. Likewise, an annual release of millions of tons of toxic gasses into the atmosphere, from oil and gas companies, and affects the minority communities disproportionately.
Vulnerability towards Natural Calamities
An increase in natural disasters has been recorded due to climate change. With the increase in global warming, the atmosphere holds more water vapor which results in more rains and storms. Moreover, the low-income communities are more affected by the tropical storms as they lack adequate resources and infrastructure.
The same is true for the communities which live in fire-prone areas. It is reported that people of color are 50% more vulnerable to the risks of wildfire in comparison to other native communities.
Loss of Livelihood The increasing surface temperature of Earth has led to drastic impacts on vital natural resources. As a result, low-income groups and minorities are being severely hit. Those communities rely mostly on farming and fishing to earn their livelihoods.
The warming of the planet results in a lower yield of crops and thus lesser productivity. Likewise, the evaporation of moisture from soil makes it barren and less fertile for future cultivation. Besides that, the prevailing droughts and intense events of precipitation further add to the misery of low-income groups.
Furthermore, the declining health of oceans is another impending threat. The loss of aquatic biodiversity means loss of livelihood for the communities that rely on those oceans.
Change in Cultural Identity
Due to climate change, the cultural identity of native communities is also threatened. There are many minority communities around the world dependent on indigenous animals and plants for traditional practices, sacred ceremonies, and economic gains. As they become less available, the tribal culture and the identity of those communities could be greatly affected.
For years, due to the racial disparity and power imbalances, the communities of color could not respond to climate change and create awareness among the locals.
To develop resilience against Environmental racism , it is important to build a sense of political and economic power amongst the youth. Now is the time to ensure climate justice for everyone regardless of their race and ethnicity.
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