Boston Official: People Of Color Most Vulnerable To Effects Of Climate Change

Oct 18, 2017
Originally published on October 18, 2017 5:12 pm

Boston’s Chief Resilience Officer is warning that people of color are most vulnerable to the effects of climate change. 

Atyia Martin, who has developed a plan for Boston to reduce the impact of racial bias in the way relief organizations respond to major storms, spoke about the issue during a symposium at Rhode Island School of Design last week.

Martin talked about how historical racist practices, such as preventing people of color from getting mortgages, have contributed to a major wealth gap between whites and blacks in America.

She said that gap contributes to whether people can afford to evacuate during major storms.

“Usually, folks will go to family members or hotels, things like that, but if all of the people you know were in the area where you were evacuating from then where do you go? And if you don’t have money then you can’t stay at a hotel," Martin said. 

Martin said cities and states need to consider this type of factor when planning for natural disasters. 

She said that's more likely to happen when local relief organizations have diverse staffs because different types of people understand the needs of different communities. 

Martin said there is no generic relief effort that works for everyone.  

“When we think about sheltering, having to shelter people, if I have a shelter that’s in a neighborhood where there’s a large population of people who don’t speak English as their first language or have limited English proficiency, then I know that I need to have translators there," Martin said. 

Martin said organizations can develop better response plans by recognizing and stopping unconscious biases, which are stereotypes people unknowingly have about different groups such as racial and ethnic minorities, during their hiring process. 

Martin added it's also up to government officials to include the most vulnerable groups in their decision making.

Martin's talk was organized by Family Service of Rhode Island. 

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