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Bus Tour Newsletter #12 – August 2021

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The Pacific Northwest experienced a record-breaking heatwave at the end of June that killed over 200 people. The hottest area of Portland during the heatwave was 92nd Avenue and Woodstock Boulevard. There, the air measured 124 degrees and the pavement measured 180 degrees.

This newsletter explores the connection between historical segregation, disinvestment, and under-resourcing of communities and today’s climate crises. As we face increasingly devastating climate disasters, such as unprecedented heatwaves and wildfire seasons, it is vital to understand the impact history has on today’s most vulnerable communities.

How the Legacy of Redlining Prevails in the Era of Climate Change

Climate change has led to more extreme weather events, including deadly heatwaves, and historically redlined neighborhoods are more likely to experience extreme heat. Redlined neighborhoods are those where residents were systematically denied housing and related services. 

From the 1920s-40s, it was common for home appraisers, mortgage lenders, insurers, and others to assess the property values of neighborhoods based on the race and ethnicity of those who lived there. Those with lighter complexions were ranked more favorably than those with darker complexions. This led to people of color being denied home loans, charged higher insurance and interest rates, and having their property valued for less than its true worth. 

In Portland, the temperature difference between formerly redlined and non-redlined neighborhoods is between 12-13 degrees Fahrenheit, the biggest disparity in the nation. To combat these inequalities, we need fair housing in order to create housing justice and community resiliency so that communities have the resources they need to alleviate and address the impacts of climate change.

To learn more about the connection between historical redlining and exposure to deadly heatwaves, check out the articles below:

Urban Heat Islands in Portland, OR. Source: Developing High-Resolution Descriptions of Urban Heat Islands: A Public Health Imperative

Home Owners’ Loan Corporation (HOLC) redlined map of Portland, OR.

Urban Climate Science

Professor Vivek Shandas of Portland State University is a leading researcher on urban climate science. His research has shown a link between historically racist housing policies and intensified effects of urban climate change. Click on the links below to check out his work:

Redlining and Exposure to Pollution

It’s not just extreme heat in which we can see the effects of historic redlining. Portland State University Professor Shandas recently led a team of graduate students who analyzed air pollution data from Cleaner Air Oregon. They found that 42% of historically redlined neighborhoods are within 1 kilometer of Portland’s top 10 industrial polluters. Furthermore, the researchers found that 38% of people of color in Portland live within 2 kilometers of the top 10 industrial polluters, compared to only 33% of the white population.

Read more about the study here: Study: More People Of Color Live Near Portland’s Biggest Air Polluters

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Is there a particular topic we discuss on the bus tour that you are interested in learning more about? Does your organization host events related to racial justice or other topics that come up on our bus tour? Email your events and ideas to to have them included in our future newsletters. 

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