B.R.E.A.D. Environmental Justice Research Committee Work Update
In preparation for our attendance at the Nehemiah Action on Tuesday May 10, the Environmental Justice Committee has focused and defined a specific environmental problem to address from the stories raised in our congregational listening sessions. The Committee is working to find practical, implementable, enforceable, ways to solve the problem that will be presented at the Action May 10. Our Justice Ministry Network may have more to tell you after our Rally for the Action April 11.
Defining the Problem in Columbus
In the 16 research meetings we have held so far, our committee has identified a common theme: climate change is hitting our vulnerable neighbors the hardest. Columbus has experienced record rainfall in the last 10 years, leading to more frequent flooding. Beyond the obvious dangers, health experts have told us that flooding can be a major contributor to respiratory issues, as mold and dust mites thrive in moist environments.
These dangers are compounded by a lack of regulation around mold in homes as well as the high cost of remediation. Additionally, a physician from Nationwide Children’s Hospital explained that breathing problems are much worse in neighborhoods with less tree coverage or located near highways. Together this has led to Columbus ranking number 26 on the top 100 list of Most Challenging Places to Live with Asthma (Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America).
As we said before, all of these problems hit our vulnerable neighbors the hardest. If you are lower income, you are more likely to live close tohighways, near industry, or other heavily paved areas because they are the most affordable. Without green space or tree cover these areas get hot – up to 24degrees hotter (Columbus Urban Forestry Master Plan) –which greatly increases your utility bill if you are fortunate enough to have air conditioning. There is also nothing to absorb greater rainfall or pollutants from the industries or highways nearby. All of this means that the highest costs of climate change in Columbus are falling on those least able to afford it.
Exploring Potential Solutions
Our city has an ambitious Climate Action Plan to reduce carbon emissions and update critical
infrastructure. The significant investment being made by our city around sustainability is a real
opportunity to invest in the communities hit hardest by environmental injustice and to address our city’s legacy of under investment in redlined and vulnerable communities. While we are still determining next steps, potential solutions could include working with code enforcement to accommodate mold complaints and pressing the city for more resources for people who need remediation. We can also hold the city accountable for following through on the tree canopy project for under served neighborhoods to improve with flooding, heat, and air quality in those areas.