A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science last year claims that systemic racism is harming urban wildlife, such as squirrels.
The study was conducted by ecologists Chloe Schmidt and Colin Garroway of the University of Manitoba.
Schmidt stated in an interview with Wildlife.org that the study highlights how much segregation has shaped city environments and that the problem started with intentional discrimination in housing through the practice of redlining.
“Redlining, a policy that started in the 1930s, systematically denied racial and ethnic minorities the chance to purchase homes in U.S. neighborhoods ranked as high quality,” she said.
The study found that neighborhoods with white majorities tended to have more animal-friendly environments.
In contrast, non-white neighborhoods were often located near highways, railroads, or other impediments to such environments.
“Systemic racism alters the demography of urban wildlife populations in ways that generally limit population sizes and negatively affect their chances of persistence,” the study said.
“Residential segregation creates race-based disparities in natural resource availability, land use, pollution, and habitat connectivity, such that neighborhoods that historically excluded minorities tend to be better wildlife habitat,” the study said.
The study claims that systemic racism changes the demography of urban wildlife populations in ways that limit population sizes and negatively impact their chances of survival.
It blames this on the development of urban landscapes and the active choice to develop certain areas, force minorities to live in undesirable locations, preferentially invest in greening majority-white neighborhoods, or place industrial facilities near communities of color.
The structure of cities, partly developed from racist housing practices, creates environments that are not conducive to wildlife persistence in the long term.
Schmidt said limiting factors hurting wildlife in non-white neighborhoods include “having less parks, or parks that are disconnected, not having as many trees on the streets, or not having as many old trees in the streets that have dense canopy cover where animals can move around.”
She said that “patterns of human segregation were creating these differences in environments that aren’t good for wildlife or people.”
“The structure of cities, partly developed from racist housing practices, creates environments that are not conducive to wildlife persistence in the long-term,” Schmidt said, according to the University of Manitoba’s website.