We all want 2021 to be a year defined by hope.
We hope the vaccines will help tame the pandemic. We hope that on-going racial reckoning will—this time—lead to concerted and sustained advances in social justice. We hope that the unprecedented wildfires, floods and storms around the world will finally fuel the urgent global action needed on climate change.
But to truly achieve any of these hopes we need first to recognize that the unprecedented challenges of 2020 were not a coincidental cascade of calamities. They represent a confluence of crises that are deeply interconnected. To tackle them effectively, we cannot do so in silos–we must understand their connections and address these challenges holistically. In short; it’s time to focus on pandemics, climate change and social injustice through one lens.
Over the past few months, we have seen painful evidence that the pandemic and social injustice are closely intertwined. According to the Center for Disease Control, low-income communities and communities of color are far more vulnerable to infection, hospitalization and deaths from the coronavirus. Among the causes are that low income communities of color are more likely to include a disproportionate number of essential workers, live in more crowded housing conditions, and be uninsured or underinsured, reducing their access to affordable, quality health care. In addition, low-income occupations predominantly require a high degree of personal exposure and therefore infection risk. Higher paid knowledge worker professions, by contrast, are far more able to work remotely (see chart below).