The New York Times reports on shade from the sun and heat as a mark of privilege in the Los Angeles area and highlights initiatives to plant 90,000 trees and cover approximately 750 bus stops, particularly in South and East Los Angeles where more people rely on transit and where neighborhoods are much less likely to have tree cover. “Angelenos high on the income ladder go everywhere in air-conditioned cars, leaving the city’s buses and baking sidewalks largely to those on the lower economic rungs. Citing the impact of climate change, Mr. Hawthorne said: “This city is noticeably less hospitable to pedestrians now than it was when I got here in 2004. So 15 years has changed this conversation.” Mr. Hawthorne has been leading the effort to bring shade to nearly 750 bus stops, utilizing data that overlays the hottest areas of the city with the locations of the busiest bus stops… Still, in some communities that have historically been neglected by the city, new trees can be a tough sell. Residents complain that the city has planted trees in the past and then failed to trim them, creating neighborhood hazards and causing injuries. The lack of trees in some poorer communities is also connected to a history of abusive policing. For years, the city kept tree growth to a minimum in some neighborhoods because police officers were worried that trees could be places to stash drugs and guns… The attention given to creating more shade is part of a broader effort by Los Angeles, Mr. Hawthorne said, to “draw people back to the public realm,” in a city famously attached to the automobile. “If we can’t turn off the sunshine, at least we can find respite and refuge, and a sense that the city increasingly is designed for all of us,” he said.”
Last month, the National Center for Health Statistics reported that life expectancy in the U.S. declined to 78.6 years in 2017 from 78.7 in 2016, the third year in a row that life expectancy in the US has fallen. Drug overdose deaths have risen 9.6 percent from 2016 to 2017 (nearly four times the drug overdose death rate of 1999). New research published in JAMA finds that increased death rates and falling life expectancy affect all racial and ethnic groups, and cross rural areas, suburbs, and cities. “The whole country is at a health disadvantage compared to other wealthy nations,” the study’s lead author, Dr. Steven Woolf of Virginia Commonwealth University, said. “We are losing people in the most productive period of their lives. Children are losing parents. Employers have a sicker work force.” … According to the new study, the death rate from 2010 to 2017 for all causes among people ages 25 to 64 increased from 328.5 deaths per 100,000 people to 348.2 deaths per 100,000. It was clear statistically by 2014 that it was not just whites who were affected, but all racial and ethnic groups and that the main causes were drug overdoses, alcohol and suicides. “The fact that it’s so expansive and involves so many causes of death — it’s saying that there’s something broader going on in our country,” said Ellen R. Meara, a professor of health policy at Dartmouth College.”
The Today, Explained podcast discusses noise pollution and its effects on health and wellbeing: “Studies have shown that over long periods of time, prolonged exposure to noise can lead to a higher risk of high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, dementia, depression. It can be very harmful to children. There was a landmark study that was done in the ‘70s, there were two classrooms in a school in New York, one of which was very close to the clatter of a subway track. And they found that the reading level of that noisy classroom was actually around a year behind that of students in a quieter classroom. And that difference disappeared once they installed some noise abatement to reduce the sound.”
Vox interviews Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, professor of African American studies at Princeton and author of a new book called Race for Profit: How Banks and the Real Estate Industry Undermined Black Homeownership, which examines the history of housing discrimination in the US, including how new practices in the wake of redlining reinforced many of the problems created by redlining. “We live in a country where your personal accumulation of wealth is what unleashes social mobility and what determines your quality of life. And for most Americans, homeownership is key to wealth accumulation. But if you don’t have access to good housing, if you’re excluded from buying good homes on conventional terms, then none of it matters. Black people have been homeowners for the entirety of the 20th century and since the end of slavery in some form or another, but not on the same terms. And so, if you exclude African Americans from access to conventional sources of finance and conventional means to buy their homes, then you’re going to end up with a huge disparity in wealth. Today we’re seeing a precipitous drop in black homeownership. It’s down to 40 percent, which is roughly what it was in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and you see a small uptick in white homeownership, so we’re going to see the gap actually grow. But what’s also important to say is that even for the 40 percent of the black people who do come to own their own homes, it doesn’t function in the same way. Property in white hands is valued more than property in black hands. So even when black people own property, it still does not accrue in value in the same way or at the same rate. Instead, it often functions as a debt burden to African Americans. This is a massive problem I wanted to bring attention to with this book. We have a society in which homeownership is the key to the good life, and African Americans have not had fair access to it.”
The US Department of Agriculture finalized a new rule that will result in nearly 755,000 people losing access to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. The change blocks able-bodied adults without children from receiving food assistance for more than three months in any three-year period, unless they are engaged in at least 20 hours per week of approved employment activities.
The Society Pages summarizes recent research on how people living in poverty must spend a disproportionate share of their income to meet basic needs, like housing. “The poor pay significantly more for housing than others — sometimes 70% or 80% of their income. In 2018, low-income households paid over half their income for rent or lived in substandard housing. Further, landlords overcharge tenants in high poverty neighborhoods and those with higher concentrations of African Americans relative to the market value of the property. When families cannot afford basic needs they will make calculated tradeoffs to keep their housing, paying for rent instead of utilities to avoid eviction. Such tradeoffs often lead to compounded costs from late fees, and families living without water, electricity, or heat.”