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Has Climate Gentrification Hit Miami? The City Plans to Find Out
By Robynne Boyd
Liberty City, Florida, feels a world apart from the glitzy beaches, posh boutiques and multimillion-dollar residences of Miami Beach, though it's only four miles away as the pelican flies. You may recognize this community from the Oscar-winning film Moonlight. Here, the streets thrum to the beat of Miami bass, the aroma of Haitian griot and banan peze (fried pork and plantains) wafts out from the area's restaurants, and homes are painted in bright hues that speak of their owners' Caribbean roots. According to longtime residents, though, the character of the neighborhood is changing as wealthier Miamians move in.
"The place just don't feel like home anymore," said Valencia Gunder, a community strategist who was born and raised in Liberty City. "And I believe climate change has everything to do with it—because the people who are moving here would never have stepped over here before."
The mood is similar in Little Haiti, Little Havana, Overtown and Allapattah. Segregation shunted people of color to these less desirable, landlocked neighborhoods around the turn of the last century. These communities perch atop Miami Rock Ridge, an elevated stretch of land extending like an alligator's spine from the northern tip of Miami-Dade County down to the Florida Keys. And this higher ground may now be driving up real estate prices.
Much of the city sits just six feet above sea level, and many neighborhoods are vulnerable to the expected sea level rise of 14 to 34 inches by 2060. Former Florida Sen. Bill Nelson has called the city "ground zero" for climate change. Meanwhile, at higher elevations, many of the residents of Liberty City and other underserved black and Latino communities say they feel pressure from real estate developers to sell their homes. The phenomenon is being called climate gentrification, and this year Miami is undertaking a study to better understand what's happening
Miami is the second-fastest growing big city in the country. So even without the threats of sea level rise and more intense hurricanes and storm surges, it would be experiencing development pressure, said Jane Gilbert, the chief resilience officer for the city. That said, a 2018 Harvard University study shows that real estate at higher elevations in Miami-Dade is appreciating at a faster rate than elsewhere in the county. Gilbert says that research, along with the anecdotal evidence pouring in from residents, helped inspire the city's study. If climate gentrification is happening, Miami wants to get out in front of it.
The city will kick off the study by gathering data on rates of property turnover, increases in land values, purchases by companies, building permits, and opportunity zones to help pinpoint the high-lying neighborhoods experiencing the most development pressure.
The second step is identifying what policies exist (or are needed) to help renters and homeowners stay put if they wish to. One move in the right direction is the Miami Forever bond, which dedicates $400 million to addressing sea level rise through improving seawalls, roads, and stormwater pumps, in addition to creating more affordable housing opportunities. Still, more support is needed.
According to a 2015 report issued by Miami-Dade County, more than 60 percent of its 2.7 million residents are struggling to make ends meet, and around 21 percent live below the poverty level with annual incomes of less than $16,000. The Miami Herald reports that in Miami Beach, wage increases aren't keeping pace with housing prices (rental or otherwise), causing service workers and public servants to leave. Now, the threat of getting priced out is creeping up the real estate map's contour lines.
"We can't have an economy that's thriving if the workforce is not living where they work," said Caroline Lewis, founder of the Miami-based Climate Leadership by Providing Engagement Opportunities (CLEO) Institute, a nonprofit that engages the public in climate change education and action. "If we're going to create a society where the haves and have-nots are separated by two hours of traffic, it becomes unlivable, unfair, and furthers the strain on everything that life asks."
Fortunately, there are ways to combat gentrification. Cities can develop inclusive processes and policies that ensure residents can chart a way forward in their own communities, explained NRDC's Sasha Forbes. Forbes is the state and local policy coordinator for SPARCC (Strong, Prosperous, and Resilient Communities Challenge), an initiative to improve the environmental, health, and racial equity of vulnerable communities in six U.S. cities. Community benefits agreements also can help. Under such agreements, a community group supports an upcoming development project in exchange for the developer providing a community need, such as affordable housing, green space, or jobs for local residents. Other strategies include enacting homeowner and tenant protections like rent control, just cause eviction, tax freezes and community land trusts. Inclusionary zoning, whereby developers dedicate a percentage of new housing units to lower-income residents, can also help. In all, a mix of equitable housing protection, housing preservation, and new housing is needed.
"The time to implement protective policies is now," said Forbes. "If we don't move fast enough, we will see historic and institutional inequities repeat themselves, displacing cultures and people who could then suffer the consequences of housing insecurity and vulnerability to climate change."
"Miami's study will hopefully help the city understand that climate gentrification is a shift in demand across all incomes demographics," said Jesse Keenan, the lead author of the Harvard study and a professor of urban development and climate adaptation. He said the problem is bigger than Liberty City, or Miami, or the whole of Florida. "We might have housing pressure in Atlanta from displacement originating in Florida, from state to state, and even transnationally as a component of climate migration."
Unfortunately, some level of movement and displacement is inevitable. Put simply, people are going to move to where it doesn't flood. And as the effects of climate change continue to batter Florida, much of the appreciation or depreciation of a household's single largest asset, usually the house, will be out of the current owner's control.
But there's also an opportunity here, added Keenan, a chance for cities to start living up to sustainability goals. Places like Miami, for instance, would have to densify development on higher land. Urban planners frequently promote higher-density layouts for efficiency in terms of transportation and to counteract sprawl; the challenge is to make sure that protective policies and plans for smart growth benefit everybody. This is particularly challenging in Miami-Dade, with its rapid growth, high fragmentation (34 municipalities) and too few civic institutions that give a voice to broad segments of the populace. Liberty City, and others, want a seat at the table.
"If I just had a magic wand, the county would give us the money to redevelop our own community in our own way," said Gunder, laughing. "We have the ability to imagine a safe, clean, and healthy community." But she fears time may be running out. "The water isn't here yet, but the sharks are at the door."
Reposted with permission from our media associate onEarth.
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Global Banks, Led by JPMorgan Chase, Invested $1.9 Trillion in Fossil Fuels Since Paris Climate Pact
By Sharon Kelly
A report published Wednesday names the banks that have played the biggest recent role in funding fossil fuel projects, finding that since 2016, immediately following the Paris agreement's adoption, 33 global banks have poured $1.9 trillion into financing climate-changing projects worldwide.
By Patti Lynn
2018 was a groundbreaking year in the public conversation about climate change. Last February, The New York Times reported that a record percentage of Americans now believe that climate change is caused by humans, and there was a 20 percentage point rise in "the number of Americans who say they worry 'a great deal' about climate change."
England faces an "existential threat" if it does not change how it manages its water, the head of the country's Environment Agency warned Tuesday.
By Jessica Corbett
A new analysis revealed Tuesday that over the past two decades heat records across the U.S. have been broken twice as often as cold ones—underscoring experts' warnings about the increasingly dangerous consequences of failing to dramatically curb planet-warming emissions.
By Madison Dapcevich
Ask any resident of San Francisco about the waterfront parrots, and they will surely tell you a story of red-faced conures squawking or dive-bombing between building peaks. Ask a team of researchers from the University of Georgia, however, and they will tell you of a mysterious string of neurological poisonings impacting the naturalized flock for decades.
The initial cause of the fire was not yet known, but it has been driven by the strong wind and jumped the North Santiam River, The Salem Statesman Journal reported. As of Tuesday night, it threatened around 35 homes and 30 buildings, and was 20 percent contained.
The unanimous verdict was announced Tuesday in San Francisco in the first federal case to be brought against Monsanto, now owned by Bayer, alleging that repeated use of the company's glyphosate-containing weedkiller caused the plaintiff's cancer. Seventy-year-old Edwin Hardeman of Santa Rosa, California said he used Roundup for almost 30 years on his properties before developing non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
"Today's verdict reinforces what another jury found last year, and what scientists with the state of California and the World Health Organization have concluded: Glyphosate causes cancer in people," Environmental Working Group President Ken Cook said in a statement. "As similar lawsuits mount, the evidence will grow that Roundup is not safe, and that the company has tried to cover it up."
Judge Vince Chhabria has split Hardeman's trial into two phases. The first, decided Tuesday, focused exclusively on whether or not Roundup use caused the plaintiff's cancer. The second, to begin Wednesday, will assess if Bayer is liable for damages.
"We are disappointed with the jury's initial decision, but we continue to believe firmly that the science confirms glyphosate-based herbicides do not cause cancer," Bayer spokesman Dan Childs said in a statement reported by The Guardian. "We are confident the evidence in phase two will show that Monsanto's conduct has been appropriate and the company should not be liable for Mr. Hardeman's cancer."
Some legal experts said that Chhabria's decision to split the trial was beneficial to Bayer, Reuters reported. The company had complained that the jury in Johnson's case had been distracted by the lawyers' claims that Monsanto had sought to mislead scientists and the public about Roundup's safety.
However, a remark made by Chhabria during the trial and reported by The Guardian was blatantly critical of the company.
"Although the evidence that Roundup causes cancer is quite equivocal, there is strong evidence from which a jury could conclude that Monsanto does not particularly care whether its product is in fact giving people cancer, focusing instead on manipulating public opinion and undermining anyone who raises genuine and legitimate concerns about the issue," he said.
Many regulatory bodies, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, have ruled that glyphosate is safe for humans, but the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer found it was "probably carcinogenic to humans" in 2015. A university study earlier this year found that glyphosate use increased cancer risk by as much as 41 percent.
Hardeman's lawyers Jennifer Moore and Aimee Wagstaff said they would now reveal Monsanto's efforts to mislead the public about the safety of its product.
"Now we can focus on the evidence that Monsanto has not taken a responsible, objective approach to the safety of Roundup," they wrote in a statement reported by The Guardian.
Hardeman's case is considered a "bellwether" trial for the more than 760 glyphosate cases Chhabria is hearing. In total, there are around 11,200 such lawsuits pending in the U.S., according to Reuters.
University of Richmond law professor Carl Tobias told Reuters that Tuesday's decision showed that the verdict in Johnson's case was not "an aberration," and could possibly predict how future juries in the thousands of pending cases would respond.