Protect Marginalized Communities From Severe Heat Waves

Target: Matthew Z. Leopold, General Counsel of the EPA’s External Civil Rights Compliance Office

Goal: Protect low-income communities of color from disproportionate exposure to severe climate change induced heat waves.

Marginalized communities of color in urban areas bear the brunt of severe heat waves compared to wealthier suburban areas that can be up to 13 degrees cooler in the summer months. As the threat of climate change increases, heat waves have become worse, causing an increase in illnesses such as heat stroke, dehydration, heart conditions, and even death. Severe heat kills more people in the United States compared to any other dangerous weather-related event and mortality rates are expected to rise.

A study done by National Public Radio (NPR) and the University of Maryland analyzed 97 of the most populous U.S. cities using the median household income from U.S. Census Bureau data and thermal satellite imagery from NASA. They found that in more than three-quarters of the cities, the poorer the neighborhood, the hotter it is.

In the summer of 2018 in Baltimore, Maryland, heat waves correlated with a spike in Emergency Medical Service calls. EMS reports that heat stroke related calls increased, as well as calls for chronic illnesses. Their data showed that calls for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) increased by 70 percent and cardiac arrest rose by 80 percent, in addition to a spike in calls related to psychiatric health and substance abuse. This trend is found in many other large cities such as Los Angeles and New York.

Cities can be referred to as “urban heat islands” due to their lack of available green space. Pavement heats up fast, while green spaces such as parks and lawns cool surface temperatures and provide significant health benefits, such as access to cleaner air. Communities of color are all-too-often placed in urban settings with lack of, or zero access to green space. This trend takes place largely due in part to the practice of redlining. Historically, redlining was used to segregate communities of color and systematically deny them services such as the refusal of housing loans and insurance. In the 1930’s, a housing shortage fueled the federal government’s decision to design a housing plan that helped middle and lower class white families afford homes in new suburban housing developments, excluding communities of color. While redlining was technically banned in the 1960’s, prominent effects of the practice are still felt today. The study by NPR found that, among 108 urban areas across the country, 94 percent of historically redlined neighborhoods are consistently hotter.

The intersectionality between housing, discrimination against communities of color and the effects of climate change must be addressed. Sign below to demand that communities of color are protected against the danger of severe heat waves.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Mr. Leopold,

Communities of color in urban areas are disproportionately affected by severe climate change induced heat waves. These heat waves are linked to dangerous illnesses, including heat stroke, heart conditions and even death.

By addressing the correlation between climate change and housing policy and how these affect communities of color, you can begin to create safe spaces in neighborhoods of people who do not have the choice of where to live. I demand that you protect marginalized communities from severe heat waves by working to create more equitable housing policy and funding initiatives to create more green space in poor, urban areas, like parks, gardens and more.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: urbanfeel


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