What are similarities between COVID-19 and environmental injustice?
If there is anything positive that I have taken out of this worldwide pandemic, it is that I have had two major realizations that have deepened my understanding of our society.
All humans are innately equal. Covid-19, a disease that emerged from nature, does not discriminate based on race, religion, economic status, or any other category of division created by man. Despite the geographic origin of the disease, people of all cultural backgrounds are susceptible to getting the virus and even dying from it.
Ironically, and perhaps sadly, not all humans are treated equally, and this virus exposes the injustice rooted in our system. Many communities of low socioeconomic status are suffering disproportionately from the inequitable distribution of testing and medical resources. As evident in early data on Coronavirus deaths in Louisiana, Illinois, Michigan, and New Jersey, disparities in access to health care, underlying health issues, job stability, and overall living conditions contribute to the inequity.
These observations also apply to environmental justice. A study by the EPA published in the American Journal of Public Health found that “facilities emitting dangerous particulate air pollution… disproportionately impact low income communities.” Developing facilities that emit pollution have historically been targeted towards low income and minority areas, and as a result, the people in those communities are hit hardest with detrimental effects on their health. Numerous scientific research studies concluded that inhaling particulate matter is correlated to increased risk for respiratory issues.
Interestingly, COVID-19 is a respiratory illness that often leads to Pneumonia, a lung infection that can cause difficulty in breathing. The devastation that COVID-19 is causing for the world is showing us a glimpse of what the future may be like if we do not take extreme measures to mitigate the effects of climate change and environmental destruction. We are seeing how frightening it is to feel helpless when the world around us is falling apart, so we must take action before we reach a point of irreversible environmental damage.