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Forum explores environmental challenges faced by NC's marginalized communities

A forum on the impacts of climate change on marginalized communities hosted by the Reimagining America Project took place in Salisbury on Thursday.
Elvis Menayese
/
WFAE
A forum on the impacts of climate change on marginalized communities hosted by the Reimagining America Project took place in Salisbury on Thursday.

A forum at Catawba College in Salisbury on Thursday focused on the impacts of climate change on marginalized communities and how to alleviate the environmental challenges those communities face.

Communities of color often feel the brunt of pollution with many located near highways and factories. The panel included Jeffrey Robins, director of Clean AIRE North Carolina. He said one of the biggest concerns of people in Charlotte’s mostly Black communities is the impacts of industrial buildings, especially on air quality.

“West Boulevard is not that far from an oil depot. So, they smell that because oil has a very distinct smell and can travel hundreds of miles in terms of the effects of the pollution it creates," Robbins said. "They wonder, why do I smell that? Is there anything you can do about it?"

Robbins said Clean AIRE North Carolina works with those communities to understand guides like the air quality index so that residents can take safety measures — for example, reducing their time outdoors when there’s poor air quality.

The local NAACP hosted the forum with the Reimagining America Project. Former Charlotte mayor Jennifer Roberts is co-chair of the project and spoke on the panel.

"We have put high-ways and polluting factories and landfills in Black and brown communities; we need to correct that," Roberts said.

She said initiatives like the Corridors of Opportunity, a city plan to invest in six historically underinvested communities, can be used to improve environmental problems in those neighborhoods.

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Elvis Menayese is a Report for America corps member covering issues involving race and equity for WFAE. He previously was a member of the Queens University News Service. Major support for WFAE's Race & Equity Team comes from Novant Health and Wells Fargo.