At the intersection of pollution and socioeconomic despair:
We can see the through lines between climate change, polluting industries, and COVID-19 at North Carolina’s numerous factory farms. These farms, which can contain millions of hogs, chickens, and turkeys, struggle to keep hazardous animal waste pits called “lagoons” from repeatedly washing away due to hurricane flooding. Toxic animal waste pollutes river basins and streams, and flows into the Atlantic Ocean, creating algal blooms that harm aquatic ecosystems. In addition, some of the largest COVID-19 outbreaks in our area are with Black and Brown factory farm workers who’ve been denied proper protective equipment. Separately, factory farms, climate change, and the COVID-19 pandemic are all extremely dangerous; but combined, lagoons overflowed by hurricanes and the poor working conditions that sicken workers are killing people, the economy, and the ecosystem.
These problems simply cannot be fixed from the top-down. Zoning is one of the major factors in environmental injustice, and that is (for the most part) a local government function. Zoning maps that were created in the 20th Century are usually only updated every ten years or so, and those updates are "tweaks," mostly focused on expanding population. The inequities built into that system (industrial zones near black neighborhoods) rarely come under scrutiny, and the refusal to zone in unincorporated areas by county commissioners is even worse. It's a major health problem for communities of color, and has gotten worse since the NIH studied it 20 years ago: