Environmental Justice
July 16, 2015, 2:00 PM

Disaster and Cleaning Up After

Several families lost everything this week in the flooding that hit Crooked Creek and some of the other rivers and streams in our area.  Among those hit were parishioners’ homes in Kentucky and on North Walnut, and the garage belonging to another member’s parents.

WKM asked people to help the Salvation Army with clean up in the northeast part of town on Wednesday afternoon, so several intrepid souls showed up to do that on Wednesday afternoon. I went also for an hour or so between lunch and the Ulster Evensong.

Aside from convincing me that I should probably invest in flood insurance – street runoff can do a number just as much as a stream overflowing – I also am reminded of how very fortunate I am to have the resources to live in a part of town less subject to natural disasters.  One of the lessons of poverty is that people with fewer resources often live in places of higher risk.

 This is true not only for natural disasters of whatever scale, but also for exposure to pollution – a particular problem in industrial zones. Those with means are able to find housing far from the sources of trouble and as a result, live safer and more healthy lives.  The poor cannot be so choosy; they have to live where they can afford. 

This is what the principles of “environmental justice” are intended to address.  Just as in many communities across America in which new section 8 housing is often limited to impoverished areas, thus defeating laudable social goals of safe communities, access to jobs, transportation and schools.

If we’re going to be justice-oriented, peace-oriented, creation-loving people – which I believe God wants us to be – we will have to reexamine the assumption that it’s okay to subject people to unsafe environments just because they are poorer than the rest of us. 

It’s like we’re keeping all the candy to ourselves and our peers, but doing nothing to expand opportunity and hope to those with less.