‘Hit First And Worst’: Region’s Communities Of Color Brace For Climate Change Impacts

“People talk a lot about communities of color, immigrant communities, low-income communities being, you know, hit first and worst,” says Kalila Barnett, who was the longtime head of the Roxbury-based Alternatives for Community and Environment, or ACE, and who’s now working with the Green Justice Coalition.

Barnett explains that given the historical injustices experienced in low-income communities of color, it shouldn’t be a surprise that those communities are already at a disadvantage when it comes to preparing for, and responding to, a changing climate.

“We haven’t had the same access to homeownership opportunities, haven’t had the same access to quality education,” Barnett says. “And so if you overlay climate change, when there’s a shock or a crisis, if people don’t have stable lives already, then they are going to be even more behind and even more disrupted because they can’t bounce back from that crisis.”

These crises might come in the form of extreme weather events, like prolonged heat weaves, hurricanes or snowstorms.

And as climate change projections become more dire, preparing a community to be able to bounce back from a crisis has become a key part of work being done in so-called environmental justice communities. The state defines these as places with either low average household incomes, communities of color, or communities where English may not be the primary language.

Atyiah Martin, chief resiliency officer for the city of Boston, says having honest conversations is an important part of creating resilience in vulnerable communities.

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