SOCY 327 Blog #7: 3/18-3/24

Textbook Analysis

In our textbook, it was hard to find a page or even a paragraph where they explicitly discuss environmental racism or climate change. In some paragraphs, they discuss how environmental problems in an urban population can affect energy consumption, but don’t go to deep into detail about the environmental problems that cities commonly deal with. Although they have small paragraphs about this topic, there is no chapter or specific part of the book where climate change or environmental racism is discussed. I will say that the book does a good job of noting that urban populations impact the environment more than rural populations and naming specific examples such as examples relating to toxic pollution. I think that it’s very important that a textbook about city and urban life discuss issues such as climate change and environmental racism because conversations on these subjects need to happen in classes and having even a chapter on environmental problems in cities can start a meaningful conversation surrounding these issues. I think that not having a textbook for this class would be a good idea, mainly because Dr. Boutwell posts great online content for us to read and begin the conversation on these issues and potential solutions.

Instagram/Twitter Hashtags

#FlintWaterCrisis – Instagram

The Flint Water Crisis has been a problem for over 5 years now and still the state and local governments in that area have not proposed any long-term solutions. While scrolling through the Instagram hashtags, I saw many posts that discussed the connection between the Flint Water Crisis and environmental racism. A few posts talked about how people of color are overlooked in environmental issues using Flint and Puerto Rico as examples, as they have been dealing with environmental disasters for the last few years. One important thing that I saw while scrolling through the hashtags on Instagram was celebrities who were donating money or time in some way to help Flint residents. For example, Jaden Smith started a foundation to supply clean water to Flint and went to Flint to install a water box that his foundation created that has clean water for residents to get free of charge.

#FlintWaterCrisis – Twitter

When scrolling through Twitter, there were much more recent posts about the crisis, most of them complaining about how celebrities have the money to help Flint, but most haven’t and many people believe that this is because of greed. When scrolling, I even found pages specifically discussing the Flint Water Crisis and potential solutions. Many people have been posting about Flint locals who have become activists toward clean water in Flint and I found this interesting because most people discuss celebrities flying from all over to visit Flint, but don’t acknowledge the locals who have been trying to make a change since the beginning.

Neither Twitter or Instagram hashtags surrounding the Flint Water Crisis specifically discuss climate change, but some do discuss the effects of environmental racism on communities such as Flint and what should be done to fix these issues, such as listening to people of color and acknowledging that there is still an issue at hand that needs to be fixed immediately. I did not see any posts connecting this to any of our four cities. With social media usage only increasing among young adults, I think that using social media more as a platform to discuss issues such as climate change and environmental racism would restart an unfinished conversation surrounding these issues, especially in Flint.

Analysis

1) Environmental Racism (to me): Maliciously participating in practices or creating policies in order to harm the quality of life or well-being of specific groups of people. Environmental Justice (to me): Creating policies surrounding fixing environmental problems that can benefit every person or group of people.

2) Five Facts About Environmental Racism

3) Majora Carter

Majora Carter’s Ted Talk on Greening the Ghetto was very insightful to me. This talk helped me better understand the importance of knowing what’s happening around you and making a change. “Neither the destruction of the Ninth Ward nor the South Bronx was inevitable, but we have emerged with valuable lessons¬†about how to dig ourselves out” was an important quote to me because this is understanding what’s happening around you. This shows that many cities are similar in some way, even without a natural disaster happening and that a change can be made, even on a small-scale level.

4) Robert Moses

Robert Moses wanted to make it easier for wealthy (and mainly White) individuals to travel from Westchester County to Manhattan, New York. He built the Long Island Parkway to ensure that buses could not go through, as most individuals of lower socioeconomic status used public transportation to get places. Between Westchester County and Manhattan was South Bronx, which was destroyed when building this highway. There was no concern for the people of color that were evicted from their homes with nowhere to go, the only concern was for the wealthy people who needed to get to places. This was very racist, as people of color had no part in this decision and were kicked to the side. Moses did this with the goal of keeping “the colored out of white spaces,” only proving more the racism behind this.

5) The Flint Water Crisis

The Flint Water Crisis began in 2014, when the city wanted to save money by switching the source of their drinking water supply from the system Detroit used to the Flint River. After gross mistreatment of the water, residents were complaining about issues such as the water being discolored, smelling bad, and not tasting right. Complaints continued to build and residents were constantly being ignored by state and local lawmakers. Residents not only complained, but protested by showing lawmakers this discolored water, but lawmakers only responded by saying that the water was safe. A study by Virginia Tech found alarming amounts of lead in Flint’s water and pediatricians in Flint noticed a significant increase in children with elevated blood-lead levels. Flint residents filed a motion in 2016 to ensure that residents can have access to safe water and a federal judge ruled that bottled water be delivered to homes without a faucet filter. In the documentary Something in the Water, something that stood out to me was the story of Ken and Tammy when they’re discussing how they had been changing their dog’s water bowl every 10 minutes because the water would “turn to jello” and when tested, the dog’s lead levels were six times higher than the EPA safety threshold for humans. That was very upsetting because people are usually very quick in a situation like this to feel bad for the animal, but the larger issue is that humans are consuming this and are suffering because of it. It was just astounding the excuses in this documentary about the cost of people’s health in Flint.

6) Examples of Environmental Racism

  • New York (New York City Must End Environmental Racism)
    • 80 percent of waste in New York is hauled to stations in North Brooklyn, Southeast Queens, and South Bronx, home to large communities of color
    • Although air quality in New York is beginning to improve with the elimination of certain toxic polluters, many residents of color live in areas at highly elevated risk for cancer or respiratory diseases
  • New Orleans (Environment, Disaster, and Race after Katrina and Environmental Racism in Louisiana )
    • After Katrina, communities of color who had lower incomes were less likely to receive assistance because of the difficulty to get to a disaster center and had more difficultly recovering because of lack of knowledge of the relief system, such as signing forms
      • Also following Katrina, undocumented immigrants avoided recovery assistance due to fear of deportation
    • In the state of Louisiana, there is a stretch of land between New Orleans and Baton Rouge called Cancer Alley, where cancers rates are over the national average and the majority of those affected are people of color

Reflections

The most important thing to know about climate change for me is that the cause of it is humans and the solution to it can be humans. Along with climate change, environmental racism has been disproportionately affecting people of color for years and we need to understand that something can be done about this. Listening to the problems and concerns of communities of color is important because this can help bring on large-scale change. These topics are very important together because it all comes down to peoples’ lives being at risk and that is very serious. We can forget that we have privilege in the sense that we have a great resource that can help us bring about change, social media. Even if it’s through a hashtag or simply showing support for a cause, something small can go a long way.

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