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03/27/2022

Comments

Trip Wright

Environmental racism is a key piece of achieving justice and eliminating prevalent systemic racism worldwide. Communities of color are all too frequently suffering from the impacts of corrosive policy that eats away at their well-being, health, and livelihood. In my History of African Americans since 1877 course we examined the impacts of the BIPOC population today due to racist policies from the New Deal. FRD signed a piece of legislation, which brought great promise and hope for the American economy but only helped select populations. The benefits procured by the GI Bill failed to help millions of Black veterans, and the U.S. Federal Housing Administration denied housing loans for Black families, not issuing them mortgages. Additionally, they prioritized "all-white suburbs" by subsidizing federal bank loans for the mass production of housing developments with the stipulation that the homes were not sold to African Americans. Most notably, however, was the act of redlining performed by the federally sponsored Home Owners’ Loan Corporation by only offering housing loans in what was deemed the less/least desirable neighborhoods/areas of town–designated "C" or "D." The Lane article cited in their research "that people of color experience higher-than-average NO2 and PM2.5 levels and are overrepresented within C and D neighborhoods, consistent with prior redlining research." Additionally, it was found that "Population-weighted mean NO2 levels are higher in D neighborhoods than overall in 80% of the 202 cities [examined] and are lower in A neighborhoods than overall in 84% of cities." Things have only gotten worse! From Tuesday's articles, we learned of the many health effects that come with living in areas with the worst air quality. The four main "health end-points" deal with pre-term births, low birth weight, autism, and asthma. We also established a long-term correlation between children's health and adult outcomes. Thus, putting the pieces together, we can suggest that the BIPOC community, initially placed in a marginalized neighborhood, where families have lived from generation to generation are already at higher risk of early health effects and greater societal disadvantages because of a policy that is almost one hundred years old.

The Lane paper writes that PM2.5 and NO2 are only "short-term" pollutants, however, policy has shown over and over again that its legacy persists…and is not always in a positive light. Such impacts became quite prevalent over the last two years as we witness minorities in America dying disproportionately more from Covid-19. The correlation between constant exposure to bad air quality at one's place of residence and the mortality/hospitalization rates for communities of color is real. For Ms. Dobbins, of near Detroit and who first asked a question about associated with neighborhoods and response to Covid, her zip code is one of the most polluted and features "a refinery, two power stations, a steel mill and a sewage treatment plant within a five-mile radius." The land became an industrial haven through policy, most likely deemed lower quality and additionally zoned for housing via racial discrimination for the BIPOC population…paying for that unjust decision today. In fact, the government has reinforced its own wrongdoing as the establishment over the last 80 years of industry is historically redlined areas have made them less and less desirable, decreasing property value, which is quite the opposite for most parts of the country that view buying a home investment. I'll end with a stark figure. In March 2019, the National Academy of Science found that Latine Americans and Black Americans are exposed to 63% and 56% more pollution than they produce, respectively.

William Dantini

The term "Environmental Racism" incorrectly implies that this is standalone problem. In fact, racism in the US has shown from various environmental aspects to test scores to covid risks to mortgage availability that every problem in this country is amplified by racism. Any good economist conducting a study in the US would factor race in as a control because they know the effects of racism are as pervasive as ultrafine particles in our organs.
As much as legislation like the "Green New Deal" would be economically beneficial for the US and the businessmen given the opportunity to profit from it, so would solving the issue of racism in this country. The potential profits of equality are huge, however the benefits wouldn't necessarily all go to the top, which is probably why it hasn't been advocated in government
As a politics major, I feel I could write an essay right now on how society and government need to change to fix this deep issue. In the meantime, health concerns from the environment will add to a host of effects of racism.
Interestingly enough, last semester I did a project with real data of covid cases that showed that counties who voted for Trump in 2020 would have more covid cases. For people in the "Cancer Belt" and others in poor areas, the poor handling of the pandemic from the Trump administration may have contributed to the 2020 election results, which would highlight this effect in the data we found. I think it would be interesting to see how environmental racism and environmental classism are affecting current political election.

Jacob McCabe

I found these articles particularly relevant to me because of the family I have that work and have worked in the refineries on the East side of Houston. My grandfather worked at a refinery for Occidental1 Petroleum for decades and the stories I heard of the health hazards over the time were astonishing. My father discussed days in which my grandfather would bring home mercury for the kids to play with in the kitchen. Stories like this tell me about the lack of understanding in terms of health effects, but that ignorance has continued to this day. The articles discuss the air pollution and health implications as a result, but one thing that comes to mind is the outcome of accidents in refineries. There was an explosion my senior year of high school in which one of the storage vaults burned for three days. There was black smog covering the sky from my house all the way to the outskirts of greater Houston. I remember being outside and thinking that just by breathing I was putting myself in harms way. That is a terrifying thought, and something that the residents of cancer alley must consider every day. The fact that this is still an issue is one of the reasons that environmental policy is so important. Even outside of climate change there are direct negative impacts on real people happening right now, and it is either ignorance or evil that allows it to continue.

Belen Delgado Mio

I think that all of these articles point to something that we have discussed in class a lot - that low-income people and minorities have always suffered the most when it comes to environmental issues. Lane et al. did a great job at demonstrating how this relates back to systemic racism in the US. Redlining, a set of housing policies created by the US government that discriminated against poor and low-income people in the 1930s, continues to negatively affect marginalized groups in urban areas to this day. The effects come in many different forms. Redlined communities are less likely to have green space, and are more likely to be closer to primary sources of air pollution, thus making these communities more susceptible to illnesses that affect their hearts and lungs. Homes in these areas were not eligible for federal loans or decent mortgage terms in the 1930s, preventing marginalized communities from being able to build up generational wealth. These factors already made it difficult for these communities to survive, but the COVID pandemic further worsened these issues.

I think that these issues show that the importance of environmental justice. We can't begin to create policies that try to tackle these issues without considering how marginalized communities will be affected.

Andrew Arnold

The one thing I keep coming back to when I read these articles is the old adage that poor people should just "work harder." I feel like that is something that gets pushed around often from people in the upper economic classes because they feel they have worked hard to get where they are, and they do not understand why others can't do the same. Maybe that is true. Maybe these people did work hard to get where they are, in all likelihood they probably did. But also in all likelihood, they were probably not born into the circumstances that we read in these articles. I had read a book about cancer ally called "strangers in their own land." This book was interesting because the person was trying to figure out why the people were supporting politicians whose policies were negatively affecting them, such as deregulation of companies. I think we have been talking about a similar scenario in West Virginia. It all seems to boil down to lying and misinformation, which is really frustrating. On the topic of racism, It really did not surprised me that these poorer often less white communities are hit harder by things like air pollution. I think it is an interesting intersection between something like climate change and helping solve social issues because air pollution perpetuates the cycle of poverty by making people less healthy and literally less able to function cognitively as someone born in the same city just in a different area. Katharine Hayhoe talked about Climate Change as a threat multiplier, and I think we are seeing this here

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