The St. Peter’s Eco-Justice team has been focusing on raising awareness about all the ways each of us can contribute to a more sustainable future. In addition to personal decisions, such as cutting back on meat consumption and taking reusable bags to the store, we need to raise our voices in support of equity and environmental justice at a policy level. What better time than now as we celebrate the Feast of St. Francis, one who recognized our calling to care for every living creature and our planet as faithful stewards of God’s creation.
Charlotte was one of the cities that redlined certain neighborhoods, forcing people of color to live in less healthy sectors while preserving the beautiful, healthy, tree-lined areas for whites only. What most people do not realize is that we are seeing the legacy of these decisions today, and they have a direct impact on health and poverty for people living in those formerly redlined neighborhoods. Our environment is directly connected to our personal health, and this is one reason so many are motivated to take care of it and keep it clean and healthy.
Families living in areas such as Hidden Valley and the Beatties Ford Road corridor, for example, are sandwiched between major highways, busy industrial corridors, and polluting industries. Residents there have been breathing less healthy air, experiencing hotter summers, and living on the sites of former landfills, which often continue to leak toxins and methane for decades after being capped. Low-income neighborhoods also have more bus routes through them, as we try to serve those who cannot afford cars, but these buses have been spewing diesel fumes into these neighborhoods as well. They have less tree cover and more asphalt-covered areas, making these neighborhoods as much as 10 degrees hotter in the summer. Residents cannot always afford air conditioning or the maintenance required to keep existing trees healthy to provide shade and filtration.
The results can be seen in the higher incidence of chronic illnesses in these neighborhoods. For example, the CDC has documented that in America, Black children are four times as likely as white children to die from asthma. Asthma can develop and be triggered by constant exposure to polluted air. These health differences are real, and they contribute to a cycle of poverty when workers and students miss days because of illness. You can see this for yourself by searching Mecklenburg County on experience.arcgis.com.
The St. Peter’s Eco-Justice team has been learning how to advocate better with policymakers to ask them to focus investment and climate solutions on these challenged neighborhoods. Join us for a webinar on October 5, from 6:30 to 8:00 p.m., entitled “Faith-Rooted Climate Justice” featuring Daisha Williams, Environmental Justice Manager at CleanAIRE NC, and Dr. Aseem Kaul, a family medicine specialist. They will focus on what environmental and climate justice looks like in Charlotte and NC, and ways to get involved. We will also be participating in the Green Faith Global Days of Action with churches from all over the world on October 17–18, more details coming soon! For more information, email Eco-Justice chair Nancy Duncan (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Jennifer Roberts, Eco-Justice Team