Environmental Racism

By Steve Matthews

FaithX helps churches and judicatories evaluate the impact of systemic racism on their communities by exploring “Data Layers.”   We overlay data points including income, racial diversity, mode of travel, access to medical care, housing, employment, and of course, redlining (among others) to explore how history, politics, and policies have created barriers to equity and well-being based on race in our communities.  

One data layer that is increasingly gaining attention is climate change.  The impacts of climate change on low-income communities, especially among low-income people of color, is growing.  Immigrant communities and African-Americans have historically been blocked from equal access to prosperous land well-suited for healthy and enjoyable living.  In my hometown in Hendersonville, NC, the Latino and African American populations have historically lived in low-lying areas subject to flooding (the places investors avoid and no-one else wants).  These areas are also more polluted because of run off.   As climate change continues to impact us in Western North Carolina flooding is a very real threat and those who live in these areas are increasingly impacted.

If I look even more closely, I discover that these rivers which are more susceptible to flooding, also have the most contaminants because the pollution uphill finds its way down into these basins. The settings for the homes are ugly and are often near industrial parks or former places of industry that did not monitor emissions.  Finally, present infrastructure does not offer the same incentives to provide quality insulation and other home energy-saving technologies that are commonplace in more marketable areas.  This means that utility costs are much higher, and for people who are already struggling monetarily it is hard to get into better housing.  The irony is that less energy-saving means more emissions which keeps the global warming wheels rolling with increased speed.  To learn more about the issue of environmental racism, check out this article in YES!

The more we explore this, the more we discover the work that is in front of us and the more tools we uncover – tools that can wake up and mobilize faith communities to action to help nurture a brighter future.  At FaithX, we want to not only help communities name the problem, but we want to accompany you as you build a stronger community prepared to find innovative and life-giving solutions.  Want to talk more about this?  Contact us at info@faithx.net.