Natural disasters are a worldwide phenomenon. The gravity of the effects differ from one group to another depending on where that country is located geographically, politically, and in terms of richness and what kind of infrastructures the country possesses and whether these infrastructures are resilient, which means how well they can survive when faced to natural disasters. ? There is a very clear and obvious correlation between climate change and natural disasters. Climate change has become an unavoidable and continuous problem internationally. The world’s glaciers are receding due to the global temperature rising: over the last century, this temperature has risen from 0.65 degrees celsius to 1.
06 degrees celsius. Putting an end to climate change is impossible, but the situation can be decelerated. At the rate that the world is consuming resources, quickly and drastically, the situation will worsen, temperatures will continue to rise and natural disasters will recur more often. ? The cause of natural disasters is still debated in our political climate: with world leaders still denying that climate change has a huge effect on natural disasters, it is difficult to make progress happen. Through the in depth analysis of the aftermath of natural disasters, a reoccurring pattern appears all over the world: poor, ethnic and racial minorities are more affected by these disasters. Because these groups lack a certain amount of economic resources, their resilience is limited. When it comes to government aid, these communities are often neglected unless the tragedy is spoken about repeatedly in the media. Financial aid is minimal when poor, ethnic and racial minorities are affected.
Despite the fact that all aspects of life are affected by a natural disaster, the recovery is slow in developing countries because of their very limited resources. “When disaster strikes, whether it is the slow onset of drought, exposure to hidden toxic waste, or the sudden impact of an earthquake or chemical leak, it tends to be a totalizing event or process, affecting eventually most aspects of community life.” ? At a more international level, we can see that this still applies. There are disparities between developed and less developed or developing countries at a more global scale. Developing countries are extremely vulnerable when it comes to natural disasters because they are the main victims of climate change. Their limited human, institutional and financial capacity makes it difficult to respond to the effects of climate change. The countries with the fewest resources bear the greatest burden of climate change in terms of loss of life and degradation of their economies in the years following the natural disaster.
Developed countries in North America and Europe, or even emerging countries like China and Brazil, are leading contributors in climate change due to their uselessly high demand of resources and desire to economically develop at a enormously fast rate creating as much profit as possible. This appetite for profit has transformed every aspect of society: from manufacturing to life expectancy. The desire for profit is what has caused the natural disaster talked about in this essay. On April 21st 2014, the water source of the city of Flint, Michigan was changed from treated Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (water coming from Lake Huron and the Detroit River) to the Flint River. This change of water source was the start of the Flint water crisis. ? Due to this change, over 100,000 residents were exposed to high levels of lead in their drinking water. The presence of lead in the water was due to the fact that the water from the new source was not well treated contrary to the water from the previous source that was treated in order to make sure that lead from the pipes did not contaminate the water. Lead pipes were inexpensive and easy to install which is why they were the primary type of pipe used in the city of Flint.
The main problem that derives from the use of lead pipes is that if the water wasn’t treated well enough, the pipes could leach lead into the water therefore contaminating it. Lead from the pipes entering the water depends on the acidity of the water. Acidic water makes it easier for led from the pipes to dissolve into the water and thus contaminating water entering someone’s home. ? The Flint water crisis is an ongoing disaster in Flint, Michigan. The status of this crisis is still controversial.
Some say it is simply an emergency while others are calling it a natural disaster. The status is important because it determines the funding that the city will receive from the federal government for relief. In the United States, when a tragic event is considered a natural disaster, the funding is much greater than if the event were to be considered as just an emergency. The difference in terms of funding can go up to millions of dollars, which is a significant amount for a small city suffering from a water crisis. ? The change of water source was driven primarily by the fact that the city wanted to lower their expenses dedicated to water. “Facing another expected increase in the price of treated water from the DWSD – prices nearly tripled ($/mcf) from 2002 to 2012 – Flint’s Emergency Manager (EM), with the consent of City Council, decided to join the newly constituted Karegnondi Water Authority (KWA) in 2013.” The city was looking to reduce the money spent on water at the risk of the population’s health and safety. On January 12th 2015, despite evidence that the water in people’s homes was life threatening, city official declined an offer to reconnect to the previous water source (DWSD) because they were too concerned by the high water rates.
This is called racial capitalism: when governments or corporations look to optimize their profit by making racial minorities suffer. ? Numerous times government officials showed concern for the wellbeing of the water but there was still a lack of action from the state government: “One of Gov. Snyder’s key staff people sounded an alarm about the concern for lead in water, but the state health department responded back that the Flint water was safe.” This lack of action worsened the situation and has played a role in aggravating the crisis. One of the main questions when it comes to this natural disaster is the following: who was affected the most? In the case of a natural disaster, the rapidity of how fast aid comes to those affected depends on what kind of groups are affected. As stated earlier, the city of Flint was mostly composed of a black population. This caused government officials to take their time in dealing with the problem at hand. Traces of E.
coli and lead, which are life threatening, were found in drinking water coming from people’s homes immediately after the water source change. Despite this being a danger to the population, a state of emergency was declared in the city, much later than the start of the crisis, by Mayor Karen Weaver on December 15th 2015, more than a year and a half later. Unfortunately, this state of emergency did not change much: lead was still present in drinking water and effects of this lead was slowly appearing in children through their blood. One can measure the gravity of a situation by showing how children in the communities are affected by a certain natural disaster. In this case, chidren’s blood-lead levels have risen from about 2.5% in 2013 to 5% in 2015.
On January 5th 2016, another state of emergency was declared for the city by the Governor of Michigan, Rick Snyder, followed by President Obama declaring the situation to be a federal emergency two weeks later on January 16th 2016. ? The population living in Flint is dominantly black which is why activist groups have called the way the government and corporations handled the situation in the city an example of environmental racism. This whole crisis is based off of the desire for profit without paying attention to the populations that are being negatively affected. The reality is that ethnic and racial minorities are often the ones affected by these sorts of natural disasters.
“Statistical ”snapshots” at a single point in time do not inform as to whether lower income communities and communities of color are having ecological hazards come to them or if ecological hazards deflate real estate values to the point at which contaminated areas become financially accessible to lower income populations.” The population of the city determines its value: “Some may argue that racism is not relevant in Flint because white people were also hurt. Such logic refuses to grasp how racism operates as an ideological process. Flint is considered disposable by virtue of being predominantly poor and Black.
Here, racism is a process that shapes places, and in this case, produces a racially devalued place.”? This can also be said about pipelines and their chosen routes. The most obvious case is the one of the North Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). Its original route would have passed through Bismarck, a dominantly white city.
Because the city’s population was concerned by this pipeline, its route was changed and a detour through the primary water source of the Sioux Nation was created. This Indigenous group was concerned for the safety of their water and had every right to be because on November 16th 2017, there was indeed a leak of 210,000 gallons of oil in South Dakota. An oil spill that was feared by the city of Bismarck ended up happening but in peril of the safety of Indigenous communities. “Comparing across categories of both race and class, the authors conclude that ‘the communities most heavily burdened with environmentally hazardous industrial facilities and sites are overwhelmingly low-income towns and or communities of color.'” Natural disasters caused by ecological hazards such as pipelines or even lead pipes are more likely to affect not just racial minorities but also low-income families. This example of the DAPL shows how corporations value the worry of white citizens more than Indigenous citizens: “Predominantly white communities and middle-class communities, previously believed to be less affected by ecological hazards, could be less likely to be mobilized around these threats or to have an effective response frame with which to respond to such risks.” The term environmental injustice is always brought up when speaking about natural disasters because it is a known fact that natural disasters affect groups differently and depending on your class or race, the rapidity of the relief to that disaster will differ. “Environmental racism was exposed as racial discrimination was seen to inform decisions contributing to members of visible minorities being highly overrepresented among those suffering the ill effects of living near heavily polluting industrial and waste sites.
The movement is more widely known as ‘environmental justice’, as those negatively impacted were primarily of low income and the negative effects were not limited solely to members of racial minorities.” A “sub-category” to environmental injustice is environmental racism and that applies more to the racial aspect behind the injustices that the population is faced with. This term was widely used after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans: “Most important, minority communities also express group-specific grievances, such as perceived environmental racism or injustice accompanying disasters. People of colour (gens de couleur), middle to working class citizens, women, and other vulnerable populations more often connect environmental injustice to their experiences post Katrina than their more affluent white counterparts.” ? Erich Krieg points out two biasses: a race bias and an income bias. “The first hypothesis predicts a race bias to the geographic distribution of ecological hazards. The distribution of ecological hazards will be concentrated in the region most heavily populated by African Americans.
This prediction is consistent with a majority of the environmental justice literature that claims people of color are more likely to be subject to ecological hazards than are whites.” Through this, Krieg suggests that people of colour are more likely to be affected by natural disasters than whites are. “The second hypothesis predicts an income bias to the geographic distribution of ecological hazards. The distribution of ecological hazards will be concentrated in the region with the lowest median household incomes.” The regions where low-income families can afford to live are more at risk of natural disasters. We can see that through the way New Orleans was built: after institutionalized racial segregation was demolished, the city stayed segregated because the black community could not afford to move anywhere else. This part of the population had to stay in areas where the risk was much higher. A problem that was at first due to racial aspects had now become a problem due to economic aspects as well.
After Hurricane Katrina, these communities were the ones that were most affected because their neighbourhoods were located where the land level was the lowest and therefore where the risk of damage was higher. The example of New Orleans is simultaneously an example of social fault lines based on race and on income. The Flint water crisis has yet to be resolved. Lead pipes will all be replaced no sooner than 2020, which means that residents will continue to have contaminated water and are instructed to use bottled water for cleaning, cooking, drink and bathing until then. ? This ongoing crisis shows the failure of government on the local, state and federal level, environmental groups, and water companies to prevent the mass-contamination of water leading to the endangering of thousands of people.
? Social fault lines in the Flint water crisis can be seen the implication of racial and economic disparities. ?