It wasn’t until recently I linked social justice and environmental issues together. I’ve never conversed simultaneously about these two issues, nor had I thought of their symbiotic relationship. This changed when I read the article “Climate change: the poor will suffer most” by UN reporter, Suzanne Goldenberg. She writes how ‘”these are some of the vulnerable groups who will feel the brunt of climate change as it effects become more pronounced in the coming decades”. She says the people who are working outdoors most of the time, single parents in rural areas and “slum dwellers” will face the brunt of this as the Earth climate is now “a threat to human security” according to the UN. Climate change/ global warming’s effect on people is excessive rain which can cause flooding and destroy homes. This is an even bigger obstacle for those who are homeless. Where do they take shelter during the storm and now, when their outdoor refuge is filled to the brim with water? Rising temperatures are also an issue. People who work outside are exposed to excessive heat, increasing the risk of overheating, dehydration, exhaustion, and death. In 2015 nearly 1 million people worldwide were”classified as “heat-related” ” death in the United States year round. If this number is only from the American population, what is the number of deaths in third world countries where children do not have the luxury of finding shelter from the sun inside their air-conditioned home?

Some of these issues can be avoided if people all over the globe had equal means of living. If everyone had shelter it would be easier to prepare for climate changes, therefore reducing the amount of climate-related deaths. Do you remember in school when a few times per year there would be practice tornado drills? Teachers would guide all the students to a safe part of the classroom or school, away from the windows or anything with glass or harmful and objects. While a tornado can destroy a building, the chances of survival increase when taking shelter. What happens to the poor when the drill is real life and they have nowhere to go to protect themselves? Do you remember Hurricane Harvey a few months ago? Not once did I hear people talking about how this would impact the homeless in the hurricane’s path. 

Did you know the U.S. Global Change Research Project said “areas previously unaffected by toxic algal blooms” (green, red or smelly water) “or waterborne diseases because of cooler water temperatures may face these hazards in the future”? When there is an  “increasing water temperatures”, it allows organisms (animals, plants or life form) “that cause these health risks to thrive. Even areas that currently experience these health threats may see a shift in the timing of the seasons that pose the greatest risk to human health” -sounds dangerous. 

So, what can we do? By providing all people with basic tools for survival like access to clean water, housing and healthcare we can begin to drastically reduce these statistics and life-ending problems.


Start in your neighborhood. Contact your city’s politicians and non profits to make a change. Get the homeless off the street, make sure people have food, water and housing. The first step is recognizing the problem and the second is taking action. By doing these two things, you are on the road to eliminating this issue. 


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Social Justice and the Environment

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