Living in the Little Haiti neighborhood of Miami, I have witnessed firsthand the devastating effects of the climate crisis and its resulting climate gentrification and population displacements.
Gentrification is not a new phenomenon, but climate change is quickly emerging as a key catalyst. When climate change threatens the homes and neighborhoods of wealthier, whiter populations, wealthy white people move to areas that are less vulnerable, often resulting in the displacement of lower-income people and the communities of color who live there.
The city of Miami is a relatively young one. Intended to be a boating city, Miami is now home to luxury developments that dot the coastline – but as climate change continues and the sea level rises, those beachfront locations are increasingly less desirable for developers who are aware of the risk of building in places that may not exist above water much longer.
Over the course of the Miami’s development, redlining caused Black and brown residents to be pushed to more undesirable parts of the city – the city center –but now that developers are setting their sights inland, high-priced buildings are creeping into historically under-resourced neighborhoods like Little Haiti and threatening the security of residents in those neighborhoods. Although gentrification may not be the first thing that many people associate with the climate crisis, gentrification in Miami is a direct result of our disastrous inaction on climate – and it poses a very real danger to my community.
Miami is ground zero for the climate crisis and sea-level rise that comes with it. The city sits just 6 feet above sea level, and studies estimate that the city will see 2 feet of sea-level rise by 2060 and 6 feet by 2100. Little Haiti sits about 7 feet above sea level, meaning that residents of the neighborhood are likely to notice these impacts later than their coastline counterparts.
Residents of Little Haiti are overwhelmingly Black low-income (median incomes range from about $10,000 to $37,000 per year) renters and immigrants – and they are now being pushed out of their homes because of the increase in development, property values and rents.
At a recent local community meeting, a developer discussed how people are buying up properties in Little Haiti and Liberty City because they will soon be beachfront acreage. As the climate crisis rages on, this predatory behavior will continue unabated unless our leaders do something about it. Little Haiti is my home and my community, and we deserve an equitable future – one that isn’t dictated by the financial interests of developers trying to capitalize on the climate crisis.
Our elected officials need to understand that climate change is real. The climate crisis is something that affects every single one of our lives every day, especially young people who will experience its most severe consequences. We need legislation and plans that put Black and brown people at their forefront. We need resiliency planning that all people can access. We need a national climate strategy that holds polluting corporations accountable for destroying communities of color.
People do not want to live in unhealthy communities where the air is too toxic to breathe, where water is unclean and undrinkable, and where we’re afraid that our houses will wash away in a hurricane and no one will be there to rescue us. We live in a country that has the resources and ability to address the climate crisis head on, so it is up to our elected officials to create and enact policies that address the effects of climate change and put the concerns of people of color at the center of those plans.
Climate and environmental justice are too often viewed as non-Black or non-POC issues, which could not be further from the truth. For me, and for Little Haiti, climate justice is personal.