The climate crisis is going to bring some major global issues and in one way or another we are all going to be hit hard by it (likewise with the coronavirus). However, some unfortunate groups of people are going to feel the affects more than others. The reason being their global position on Earth. Some folks may happen to live in harder-hit vulnerable areas where wildfires tend to rage and hurricanes aren’t an uncommon occurrence nor is flooding.
Also, some areas and classes of people (the sad truth) will have less access to resources that would help them recover from climate related events. Floods and fires for that matter. Many people in the latter category are located in the demographic and economic sub-groups that make vulnerable especially if (when) disaster happens.
A few factors of those demographics we just mentioned like age, race, and gender aren’t under the populations control. History’s of particular groups or communities can reveal that they have gone through unfair treatment that is often rooted in biased policies or attitudes.
We know that communities of colour and poorer areas are more than likely to suffer the wrong end of the stick when it comes to climate change (not that there’s a particularly good end). The ironic part about this is that they emit considerably less greenhouse gas emissions than their wealthier counterparts and those areas of less-diverse populations.
The consequences of climate change aren’t 100% of the problem, you also have to take into consideration that they are also more likely to live around the sources of pollution responsible of the warming of the globe such as industrial cities, highways, refineries and many more sites.
How do we make things more fair when it comes to issues like pollution? The environmental justice movement (EJM) is what is heart of this question.
Pollution and climate change consequently affect people’s health and quality of life. But we’re (researchers) aren’t always clear about which people suffer the most from them.
Rising sea levels and contaminated water systems comes with harm, but it isn’t evenly distributed. Those who are already disadvantaged because of the situations they don’t have control over such as race or income are usually the most affected by environmental hazards and natural disasters. We don’t always solve the problems with our water, air and soil in ways that serve the people who need it the most – without recognizing that inequity. This is why environmental justice is an essential piece of planning that green future we all want for one another.
Unfortunately, one community’s climate solution is another ones problem. The problem with the climate crisis reminds me of the new film on Netflix – The Platform. Those at the top do not feel the effects as much as the ones beneath them and those who are below, their lack of food is their problem. I.e. your place in the climate crisis is your fault.
What happens to a person when their financial health clashes with their physical health? What happens when they begin to affect one another? That’s the case with many countries who are still coal driven where it is one of the leading contributors to their economy such as China, India and Indonesia.
However, the coal industry has been in decline for nearly 100 years which is good news. This means there is less pollution and less carbon in the atmosphere (if not replaced by other carbon emitting industries). But of course, with everything good in the world, there’s normally a catch. It can subsequently mean fewer jobs and tax revenue for coal communities.
Although, some more good news, there is actually a path to make moving on from coal to cleaner sources of energy a win-win proposition.
Just Transition – A community that rebuilds after losing a major job provider and polluter. It is a framework that takes care of workers who lose their job so they aren’t left without any income. It replaces tax revenue and heals the environment. Of course, it needs funding from the government.
An example is in Tonowanda, New York where its coal plant closed in 2016 but they hatched a plan where local leaders all teamed up to apply for a funding where they got millions to make up for lost tax revenues. The plants owner is responsible for cleaning up the site and the Tonowandans will help decide what they want seen built there. Things such as a museum, park or clean energy facility. This was achieved through 1000’s of people coming together to make their air breathable again. A lesson any community or even the world can learn from.
Credit: Teresa Chin – Grist