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Report: Communities of Color Have Unequal Access to Nature

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In the U.S., 74% of communities of color live in nature-deprived areas, compared with just 23% in communities considered white. (Pixabay)
In the U.S., 74% of communities of color live in nature-deprived areas, compared with just 23% in communities considered white. (Pixabay)
August 17, 2020

DENVER -- As the nation grapples with charges of systemic racism in the wake of George Floyd's killing by Minneapolis police, a new report shows that communities of color are three times more likely than communities identified as white to live in areas considered to be nature deprived.

Report co-author Shanna Edberg, director of conservation programs for the Hispanic Access Foundation, says people of color, who are disproportionately suffering from COVID-19, can't access the health benefits of green spaces.

"Access to nature promotes an active lifestyle," she states. "Greenery absorbs pollution, and pollution is found to be one of the risk factors for COVID-19. So, it's not just this kind of ideal that we'd like to have, it's people's health and mental wellness."

The report by Edberg's group and the Center for American Progress found that families in low-income neighborhoods and communities of color do not have adequate access to safe, close-to-home parks and other green spaces.

Across the country, 70% of low-income communities live in nature-deprived areas.

In Colorado, Hispanic and Latino communities are more likely to live in the shadows of power plants, refineries, and oil and gas operations than any other racial or ethnic group.

Co-author Jenny Rowland-Shea, a senior policy analyst with the Center for American Progress, says the data confirms that the stark disparities are not a result of chance, but decades of systemic inequalities and environmental racism.

"Including practices of redlining, a long history of prioritizing parks in white neighborhoods, siting factories and energy projects in communities of color," she states. "Even literally paving directly through or over diverse neighborhoods."

Rowland-Shea says state and local governments can help reverse inequities by prioritizing new parks and greenway projects in communities of color, and changing hiring practices so that staff in related government agencies, nonprofit groups and foundations better reflect the nation's diversity.

The report's recommendations also include protecting at least 30% of natural landscapes in the U.S. by 2030.

Disclosure: Hispanic Access Foundation contributes to our fund for reporting on Climate Change/Air Quality, Environment, Human Rights/Racial Justice, Livable Wages/Working Families. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Eric Galatas, Public News Service - CO