Another potential hurricane on the horizon and the residual effects of Hurricane Laura remind us to decrease carbon emissions globally to minimize the future severity of storms. But hurricane impacts do not affect us all equally.
Even though I stand for sea turtles and corals, at the heart of my activism I fight for a planet that humans can survive on. So it has been a glaring error that I have not been fighting for humans. As a young, angsty environmentalist, I viewed humans as the enemy of the nature I wanted to protect, not as an integral part of nature that needs to be protected as well.
It is an immense privilege to be able to put my energy into protecting the environment when others must put their energy into protecting themselves and their communities. In addition to social injustices, environmental issues disproportionately affect minorities and disadvantaged communities. We see this exemplified in the after-effects of hurricanes.
The Social Justice Issue
A black homeowner in New Orleans was more than three times as likely to have been flooded as a white homeowner during Hurricane Katrina in 2005 (Source: NYT). Black homeownership in the area was primarily restricted to a few low-lying neighborhoods, due to decades of discriminatory lending policies. Additionally, black residents had average incomes 60% lower than white residents, making it more difficult for affected residents to evacuate or return to rebuild their homes (Brown). Katrina is not an exception, Hurricane Harvey in 2017 also impacted black and Hispanic communities in Texas at a higher rate than white communities (KFF).
The Environmental Issue
Hurricanes are getting stronger. The ocean absorbs the majority of the earth’s excess heat - as global temperatures rise, so do ocean temperatures. Warmer water has more energy and therefore fuels stronger storms. Additionally, warm water molecules take up more space - causing sea-levels to rise and increase storm flooding.
We are all made of water. We all deserve to be protected.