The Guardian is launching a new reporting series on America’s Dirty Divide: “The climate crisis has forced many people to consider what they would do if the places they call home became unlivable in their lifetimes. But in the US, certain vulnerable communities – especially Black and Indigenous populations – have been fighting for the right to clean, safe, healthy environments for generations. Decades of systemic racism mean that in the richest country in the world, access to clean air, clean water, and proper sanitation are not a given. The health effects of these inequalities are staggering. Black Americans are 75% more likely to live in close proximity to oil and gas facilities, which emit toxic air pollutants; as a result, these communities often suffer from higher rates of cancer and asthma. Researchers have found that Black children are twice as likely to develop asthma as their peers.”
A new report from The Lancet, traces the health effects of the Trump administration’s policies “on everything from the environment to taxes to Covid-19. And the results aren’t pretty. Soon after Trump took office in 2017, The Lancet established the Commission on Public Policy and Health in the Trump Era to study the health impact of his decisions in the White House. Over the past four years, the commission analyzed his policies as they took shape while seeking to place them in a broader historical context. They found that Trump’s mismanagement of the coronavirus pandemic caused tens of thousands of deaths that might have been avoided if the country’s response had been more effectively coordinated. “I think the huge number of deaths from Covid, compared to the other G7 wealthy nations, was striking,” said Steffie Woolhandler, a co-chairman of the committee and a distinguished professor at Hunter College in New York. But even before the pandemic, the report found, Trump’s attempts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act had increased the number of uninsured Americans by two million to three million people.”
New research links social capital – among other factors -- to COVID containment. Makridis and Wu also broke down the committee’s social capital index to determine which element is most closely related to covid-19 severity. They found that “greater trust and relationships within a community” were some of the most powerful predictors of virus spread. “When individuals have a greater concern for others, they are more willing to follow hygienic practices and social distancing.” Conversely, in places with low social capital, people tend to be distrustful of the government, making them less likely to comply with social distancing and mask mandates. This can create a type of vicious cycle, Makridis and Wu write: Lack of compliance with public health directives leads to more severe outbreaks, which causes trust in government to erode further… Makridis and Wu’s research underscores how the ongoing erosion of social trust in the United States created an ideal environment for a pandemic to flourish.
The Guardian reports on pollution in US subway systems: “People traveling on subway systems in major US cities are being exposed to unsafe amounts of air pollution, with commuters in New York and New Jersey subjected to the highest levels of pollution, research has found.Tiny airborne particles, probably thrown up by train brakes or the friction between train wheels and rails, are rife in the 71 underground stations sampled by researchers during morning and evening rush hours in Boston, New York City, Philadelphia and Washington DC, the cities that contain the bulk of subway systems in the US.”