Coronavirus transmission rates may be down in New York City, but in the Bronx, my community is still facing the effects of three pandemics: COVID-19, white supremacy, and climate injustice. My Black and Latinx neighbors are at least three times more likely to die than white New Yorkers, and those deaths are directly correlated to underlying diseases that are a byproduct of climate injustice: lung disease, asthma, diabetes, and heart disease. Black and brown people also make up the majority of underpaid essential workers who literally cannot afford to stay at home.

The term “sacrifice zones” — communities that have been permanently impaired by environmental damage or economic disinvestment — takes on an even darker meaning during the pandemic. These are communities where air pollution, waste, and food deserts (along with food swamps) are common. They are on the frontlines of both climate change and the pandemic. And the connector is racism.

COVID-19 has laid bare the human costs of racial and environmental injustice. Regardless of wealth, communities of color, and especially Black communities, are more exposed to air pollution than white communities — which creates conditions that increase the likelihood of complications and death from COVID-19. It is no surprise that the virus hit the Bronx the hardest; we have higher rates of childhood asthma and complications than anywhere in the country.

To fight COVID effectively, we need to address sacrifice zones. That means building a regenerative economy that values life in all of its forms. Otherwise, we will continue to see the sanctioning of Black death and suffering.

Communities across the country are already enacting groundbreaking climate justice policies. Here’s how the rest of us can follow their lead:

  1. Give communities control of land
  2. Make water a human right
  3. Invest in democratically controlled energy
  4. Enact an Essential Workers Bill of Rights
  5. Build more affordable green housing
  6. Pave the way for clean transportation

Read the full article about eliminating sacrifice zones by Dieynabou Barry at Grist.