Record-breaking temperatures across the world this summer serve as a harsh reminder, along g with other climate-related weather events such as flooding over vast portions of the continental U.S. and a longer and more active hurricane season, that phenomena once considered anomalies, are the new normal. Storms formerly categorized as “once in a hundred years” in severity are gradually becoming more commonplace with annual recurrences.
While the climate crisis leaves no one unharmed, its effect on historically marginalized communities, already disproportionately at risk along all the social determinants of health, is far more imminently dangerous than for their more socio-economically stable and, therefore more resilient, counterparts. The factors that contribute to health and well-being – safe work environments, quality schools, safe and affordable housing, access to parks and recreational centers, adequate and affordable transportation systems, access to quality mental and physical healthcare – are impacted by the quickening pace of climate change and its related catastrophic consequences.
Communities of color bear the brunt of the effects of environmental degradation given their historical relegation to the most environmentally harmful areas. Rising sea levels, increasing temperatures, and the intensifying storms that follow place at even further risk communities pushed to the precipice of safety and well-being. As neighborhoods, municipalities, states, and the federal government finally begin to grapple with the looming climate crisis and consider its impact on the social determinants of health, it is imperative that primary focus and preferential care be given to communities that lack adequate resources to create the resiliency our climate future requires. Rather than continue the shameful pattern of centering resilience efforts within affluent, mostly white communities, the compounding impact of climate change on less-resourced communities should compel leaders at every level to begin their concerted efforts at the margin before working their way in.
By Stacy Martin