The almost universal sentiment by a growing body of physical and social scientists is that climate change--with its floods, drought, heat, and cold-- portend losses of life, communities, property, and the rhythms of living. Some are more vulnerable to these impacts than others: individuals and the poor, who through official government policy and self-interest in the housing markets, have been relegated to live in poorly-constructed and poorly-placed structures--in the wake of ocean surges; in the path of strong winds; near hazardous and noxious facilities; stranded in urban heat islands. Failing to heed climate change omens will lead to a world fundamentally different and unsustainable for basic human values, for basic physical needs, for how we stay warm, how we obtain food and water, how and where we live, travel, and interact.
Our current land use policy and patterns are precariously out of sync with the ecological trends of the natural world and the evolving notions of equity and fairness. Wisely, we are reassessing the effects of historic discriminatory land use policy and embracing a new urban design concept--“one that if not climate-determinist, is climate-cognizant,” We are seeing that safe and inviting communities are the claim of all, and land use policy should not by intention or effect operate to exclude on account of race, ethnicity, or socio-economic status. We are seeing that the impacts from the built environment and the natural environment can be reconciled in a way that shows regard for climate and social equity.
In this Article, I recount some of the history of unwise and improvident land use policy and practices that have led to gross inequities and to the climate-exposed state, not only in terms of where people were assigned spaces to live, but how. I go on to suggest that communities should be designed with intent, with regard for the threats of climate change as well as accessibility to those historically excluded.
Shelby D. Green, Equitable, Affordable and Climate-Cognizant Housing Construction, 75 Ark. L. Rev. 363 (2022), https://digitalcommons.pace.edu/lawfaculty/1225/.