In this lesson, we explore the inequity that exists in environmental health and nature because of changes we, humans, have made in our environment. Typically, people who have access to nature are generally healthier and have reduced incidences of respiratory illnesses (e.g., asthma), decreased blood pressure, and decreased chance of depression. Unfortunately, highly urbanized areas have higher impervious surfaces and less greenspace leading to higher temperatures and reduced opportunities for outdoor health benefits often affecting minority and low-income communities. These communities are also impacted by redlining which is the systematic denial of various goods or services (typically financial) to residents of certain areas based on their race or ethnicity. Redlined zones, historically, were areas that were outlined ranging from letters A being “better” to D being “worse” and were generally associated with specific socio-economic groups. The module’s main activity focuses on redlining and environmental health, which is meant to emphasize the differences in access to nature based upon where people live. The students utilized a map with information on redlined zones in various U.S. cities. The map also shows percentage of tree cover, race, poverty level, and land surface temperature within the zones. Using this map, each student group will analyze their assigned city to see how these factors influence a person’s access to nature (i.e., green spaces such as green belts, parks, etc.) and to determine emerging patterns related to greenspaces, tree cover, minority population, median house value, and impervious surface. Students will witness the historical practice of redlining and its lingering effects of environmental (in)justice that affects our minority communities through mapping, predictions, reading, and discussion.
This resource was developed with support from the National Science Foundation.