People of Color Disproportionately Affected by Climate Change


In August 2005, Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, Louisiana. The horrific hurricane killed at least 1,833 people and annihilated homes, schools, stores, and more. The residents located near this tragedy were people of color who lived in low level areas. Along with living in poor conditions, people also lacked proper resources to prepare for disasters. It is now 2019 and communities affected by this tragedy are still dealing with the effects of this hurricane. While dealing with these challenges, these people are also fighting companies that are causing pollution near their communities.

Hurricane Katrina demonstrates the struggle for communities of color (typically African Americans and Native Americans) to recover for natural disasters. These communities tend to struggle due to lack of governmental funding, which results in little resources. For instance, communities of color tend to have little resources to evacuate when disasters are occurring. If these people are evacuated from their communities, they are often left with uncertainty about when to safely return to their homes, since the government does not announce when to do so.

Not only are these communities dealing with a lack of funding, but many are also dealing with companies who are producing pollution near their homes and schools. Studies have shown that polluting companies are disproportionately located near communities dominated by people of color. For instance, a utility corporation named Entergy is attempting to gain an environmental permit for a gas power plant near East New Orleans. If this corporation gains a permit, they will be able to release one million pounds of toxic air pollutants located alongside many homes and schools. They will also produce over a billion pounds of greenhouse gases that result in climate change. The pollutants and toxins increase the chances of asthma and cancer within these communities.

This can explain why one in six African American children have asthma, differentiating from 1 in 10 nationally. Nearly sixty-eight percent of African Americans lived near 30 miles of a coal plant, one of the biggest carbon pollutants in the United States. Also, African Americans located in Los Angeles are more than two times as likely to die during heat waves rather than other locals living here. This is due to creating “heat islands,” which are made by lots of concrete and asphalt (which is correlated to rising temperatures). Since people of color mostly populate these heat islands, they are more vulnerable to the effects of them. People located in these areas also tend to not have resources such as air conditioning or proper transportation.

Here are a few ways to prevent further suffering for people of color communities and to eliminate further damage of climate change: properly equip people of color to prepare for natural disasters, elect officials into office that care and plan to take action against climate change, and increase investments in clean energy. Properly equipping people of color will result in less damage or better methods of evacuating. Electing officials who take action against climate change will be efficient because they can promote the idea of clean energy and other methods for the fight against climate change. The idea of clean energy is providing homes with wind, solar, and efficiency upgrades. Also, increasing investments in clean energy can provide employment for people, more so for people of color. By making these changes, climate change can stop worsening and destroying communities dominated by people of color.



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