Gentrification is destroying communities just as much as climate change

Source: The Guardian Unlimited

Think of gentrification as a localized version of climate change: uprooting species and cultures, punishing the poor and rewarding the rich

Last week, the Sierra Club left San Francisco, its home since its founding 124 years ago. Like so many individuals and institutions, it was pushed out by high rent.

The Club, the US’s largest grassroots environmental organization, will be fine in its new home across the bay in Oakland; it’s San Francisco I worry about.

Contemporary gentrification is an often violent process by which a complex and diverse urban environment becomes more homogeneous and exclusionary. It does to neighborhoods and cities what climate change is doing to the earth: driving out fragile and deeply rooted species, and pushing the poor past the brink.

Think of climate change as a globalized form of gentrification, reducing complex environments, uprooting species and cultures, punishing the poor and rewarding the rich – or at least leaving them out of the purges. After all, the reason why climate change continues unabated long after most of the world has acknowledged its seriousness is that it’s profitable for some, notably fossil fuel companies, and not threatening enough to the people in power. You can buy your way out of a lot of trouble, if watching the suffering and annihilation of others doesn’t trouble you.

Thanks to climate change, there is already immense suffering and loss, of places, species, crops, homes. The poor are often the people deeply rooted in place, whether they’re fisherfolk in the Mekong Delta (due to go underwater from rising seas) or farmers in desertifying Africa or India, where a horrific heatwave and drought killed at least 300 last month and left 330 million without enough water. The rich can always move on if their beachfront home floods or the weather in the Azores or Miami becomes unbearable, as it did last month in Cambodia during “the most intense heatwave ever observed in south-east Asia”, where the temperature reached 108.7F (42.6C) for the first time ever recorded.

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