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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Jean-Marc Neveu and Olivier Civil never expected to find themselves battling against disposable mask pollution.
When they founded their recycling start-up Plaxtil in 2017, it was textile waste they set their sights on. The project developed a process that turned fabrics into a new recyclable material they describe as "ecological plastic."
Mounting Piles of Waste<p>It is not only the streets of Chatellerault where pandemic pollution is piling-up, but also the world's beaches and oceans. Once there, they can take up to 450 years to degrade and disappear.</p><p>Esther Röling, co-organizer of the annual Adventure Clean Up Challenge held on Hong Kong Island, has seen this waste firsthand. In October the sports challenge pitted teams against one another in a competition to remove trash from 13 hard-to-reach coastal areas around the city.</p><p>They find tons of both disposable and reusable masks, said Röling. "You wonder how it ended up there. Was it just thrown on the ground? Or was it in a garbage bag that broke open?"</p><p>Almost 10,000 kilometers away in Antibes on the sunny French Riviera, it's a similar picture. For the past few months, divers and clean-up volunteers working with an ocean clean-up non-profit called Operation Mer Propre have been collecting an increasing number of masks found on land and in the sea.</p><p>"Since the beginning of the lockdown when we started to count, we've reached 800, 900, [and now in total] 1000 masks," said co-founder Joko Peltier. </p><p>According to <a href="https://unctad.org/news/growing-plastic-pollution-wake-covid-19-how-trade-policy-can-help" target="_blank">UN estimates</a>, up to 75% of all coronavirus-related plastic could end up as waste in oceans and landfills.</p>
The Limits of Recycling<p>Yet not all are convinced the recycling of this waste is possible on a global scale. </p><p>"What those citizen groups are doing is really beneficial but once they collect it, it should just go to a landfill or an incinerator. They shouldn't necessarily expect it to get recycled," said Jonathan Krones, an industrial ecologist and visiting assistant professor of environmental studies at Boston College.</p><p>That's because mask recycling programs like Plaxtil are few and far between and most don't have the benefit of a readily adaptable production process. </p><p>Even in countries with solid recycling infrastructure, he says, the system is designed to separate out specific types of waste like bottles or cardboard.</p><p>"I imagine that it would be technically feasible to develop a separation process to filter out masks, but there simply aren't enough of them to make that economical," he said.</p><p>Collection is a big hurdle, he adds. Since each mask only weighs a fraction of a gram and they're scattered on roads or mixed with other trash, it is difficult and costly. </p><p>"You need a lot of raw material of the right quality to make investing in the recycling technology and the recycling system worthwhile," he said.<span></span><br></p>
Hemp, Sugar Cane and Sustainable Alternatives<p>Some projects are instead addressing the material used to make masks.</p><p>French company Geochanvre have created a mask made primarily from hemp, while in Australia, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology are experimenting with a disposable product made from agricultural waste. </p><p>Biodegradable options are exciting alternatives to reduce the fossil fuels needed for the creation of plastic-based masks, said Krones, but they don't absolve the wearer from the responsibility of what happens afterwards. </p><p>Bio-based masks often need their own composing solutions, he explains, because in landfill they can produce high amounts of the greenhouse gas methane when anaerobic bacteria feeds on the organic material. Methane is known to be significantly more potent than carbon dioxide.</p><p>"I think as long as we have in our mind that we want to have disposability, we're going to have to wrestle with a variety of different sorts of environmental tradeoffs," he said, adding that reusable, fabric masks are the best option available to most people.</p><p>Precimask is developing a clear face covering with an optional visor made from hard plastic, designed to be long-lasting.<br></p><p>Air enters either side of the cheeks through a technology normally found in pool filters and car exhaust systems, said company spokeswoman Juliette Chambet.</p><p>"We wanted to make ceramic-based filters that would be washable and cleanable, which would allow them to be reused as many times as desired without having to buy a new consumable or produce waste," she said. </p><p>Ultimately, encouraging mask wearers to think about the entire lifecycle of a mask is key, explains Neveu. </p><p>"We want people who put on the masks to realize that they are also responsible for the waste, he said. "It's not inevitable that this [pandemic] will become an environmental catastrophe.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/covid-19-recycling-pollution-trash-pandemic/a-55707817" target="_blank">Deutsche Welle</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649032193#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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