Monday, August 31, 2009

The Connection Between Inner-City No-Place and Costly Environmental & Social Issues

In a recent Ted talk, Majora Carter draws a powerful connection between our blighted inner-city No Places and environmental and social degradation. She shows how her neighborhood's health, crime, and employment problems are directly related to land-use decisions made in the 1960s when the once-white neighborhood began to become African-American. Though once a shady, walk-to work neighborhood, Hunts Point quickly began to change when banks began red-lining this area disallowing most types of investment, and planners began locating power plants and highways there.

"Unfortunately," Carter argues, "race and class are extremely reliable indicators as to where one might find the good stuff, like parks and trees, and where one might find the bad stuff, like power plants and waste facilities. As a black person in America, I am twice as likely as a white person to live in an area where air pollution poses the greatest risk to my health. I am five times more likely to live within walking distance of a power plant or chemical facility -- which I do. These land-use decisions created the hostile conditions that lead to problems like obesity, diabetes and asthma. Why would someone leave their home to go for a brisk walk in a toxic neighborhood? Our 27 percent obesity rate is high, even for this country, and diabetes comes with it. One out of four South Bronx children has asthma. Our asthma hospitalization rate is seven times higher than the national average. These impacts are coming everyone's way. And we all pay dearly for solid waste costs, health problems associated with pollution and more odiously, the cost of imprisoning our young black and Latino men, who possess untold amounts of untapped potential. 50 percent of our residents live at or below the poverty line. 25 percent of us are unemployed. Low-income citizens often use emergency room visits as primary care. This comes at a high cost to taxpayers and produces no proportional benefits. Poor people are not only still poor, they are still unhealthy."

I'd encourage anyone concerned with the effect that No-Place has on human well being to view Majora Carter's truly powerful talk. Photo courtesy of sgrunt.

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