Building a Healthy Environment

Most U.S. localities are legally tasked to make decisions that protect the health, safety and general welfare of its inhabitants. While environmental health should be provided for all populations, communities of color are disproportionately burdened with environmental health hazards, such as proximity to pollutants, or inadequate access to green spaces, healthy food or transportation.

As a result of exposures and lack of health amenities, these communities experience a higher rate of health problems. The essayists in this section confront these examples of environmental racism, recognizing that multiple approaches and cross- sector collaboration must occur to make our systems more equitable.

Featured Essays and Media

Radically Reimagining Our Systems
Dr. Danny TK Avula

Spaces to Breathe
Ryan Rinn

Climate Resilience and Justice in Richmond
Jeremy Hoffman

The Bus Should Be Free
Wyatt Gordon and Faith Walker

Episode 4: Equitable Green Space
Sheri Shannon and Ted Elmore

Discussion Questions

Read through the following questions and answer them based off what you learned from the readings:

1. Many of the essayists indicate that in addition to data, community leaders are critical to  addressing equity in environmental health. In what ways might community-led efforts impact health outcomes?

2. In his essay, Jeremy Hoffman equates climate justice with racial justice. What is your definition of climate justice? How is this similar or different from racial justice? Do you see ways in which these two are linked?  

3. Ryan Rinn warns of “green gentrification” which happens when public investment in green spaces increases property values and prices out low- and middle-income residents. Have you seen this occur in your community or others? Do you know of policies that can combat it? If not, see this report, what solutions resonate with you?

4. Do you think the bus should be free? Why or why not?

Discussion Questions

  • Is there a connection between the sections of your city that were redlined and the presence of green infrastructure (i.e., tree cover, parks, open spaces)? Study the redlining map of your city, noting neighborhoods that were redlined. How does the green infrastructure of these areas compare to that of other areas in the city?

  • Who are the local community leaders in your city that are working toward health equity? Make a list of these people and organizations and learn how they are organizing, educating and leading in your community.

  • Find the map of your city’s bus/train system to assess who it serves. Pick a starting point in a lower-income residential area and determine which routes you would have to take to reach a significant employment center. Using the system’s timetable, determine how long it would take to get to work.

  • Identify 1-2 community development corporations, grassroots organizations, or churches doing good work in historically excluded communities. What work are they doing? Is there a way for you to support it?


City of Tempe Urban Forestry Master Plan

Olympia Washington Zero Fare Program

Land Justice Fund

Southside ReLeaf

Park Related Anti-Displacement Strategies

Additional Resources

Parks and the Pandemic

Green Spaces Tied to Smaller Racial Gap in Coronavirus Infections
Chelsea Cirruzzo, U.S. News (May 4, 2021)

Fighting for Food Justice in a Gentrified Richmond

Cat Modlin-Jackson, RVAMag (April 23, 2019)

Green Gentrification
Isabelle Anguelovski, James JT Connolly, Laia Masip, Hamil Pearsall (2017)

Heat Wave
Eric Klinenberg (2015)

Throwing Shade in RVA
Jeremy Hoffman (July 13, 2017)

Planned Destruction
LaToya S. Gray (July 22, 2020)

Why the “wrong side of the tracks” is usually the east side of cities
Stephen DeBerry, TED Talk (April 2018)

RVAgreen 2050

Should Public Transit Be Free? More Cities Say, Why Not?

Ellen Barry, The New York Times (January 14, 2020)

Featured Work

Join our newsletter to stay up to date on new releases and events.
By subscribing you agree to provide consent to receive updates from our Richmond Racial Equity Essay.
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
© 2021-2023 Richmond Racial Equity Essays. All right reserved.