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Menopausal Mother Nature

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Climate Gentrification:  Coming To a Community Near You

(Credit: Joe Raedle / Getty Images) Click to Enlarge.

In just the last two years, climate change has brought on an onslaught of disasters:  more than 4 feet of rain in south Texas, 90 degree days in Alaska, and record-breaking wildfires that have destroyed homes and upended communities.  But now, an unexpected threat from climate change is looming on the horizon:  gentrification.

“Climate gentrification is when the response to climate impacts indirectly increases disparities in communities,” Jennie Stephens, director for strategic research collaborations at Northeastern’s Global Resilience Institute, says.  Wealthy people seeking refuge from the effects of climate change are starting to move into neighborhoods that were once considered undesirable.  The term is fairly new, but there are already examples of this new kind of gentrification taking place — and not just in coastal areas.  “It can happen and it is happening in all kinds of communities,” Stephens says.

Norfolk, Virginia, is one of the country’s most climate-vulnerable areas, and an example of what happens when city officials attempt to adapt to the rising seas from climate change at the expense of the poor.  The city, which sits at the junction of the Chesapeake Bay and Elizabeth River, is home to nearly 245,000 people and regularly floods on rainy days and even on sunny days during high tide.  By 2050 NOAA predicted Norfolk will have 170 sunny-day floods a year.

Local leaders came up with a strategy last year to reinvest in low-income neighborhoods and protect vulnerable ones from constant flooding.  St. Paul’s redevelopment plan will tear down several public housing complexes in the low-lying neighborhood and replace the decrepit buildings with a mixed-income development while ceding the most vulnerable areas to the sea.

“The crown jewel of the re-imaged St. Paul’s neighborhood will be the transformation of the low-lands area that is often devastated by flooding into a water eco-center comprised of great parks, green spaces,” the city’s official website reads.  The lowlands that routinely flood will be transformed into parks and green spaces.  In May, the Department of Housing and Urban Development announced that Norfolk was chosen for the Choice Neighborhoods Initiative, a $30 million competitive grant that the city will use to help pay for the project.

Read more at Climate Gentrification:  Coming To a Community Near You

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