Sammy Roth, a writer for the LA Times and the weekly Boiling Point newsletter, published an article in which he claimed that many people of color in the Los Angeles area are subjected to a form of environmental racism as a result of the presence of affluent and white drivers.
Roth shared a new study from USC researchers that found Angelenos who drove more were subjected to less air pollution than those who drove less.
“It may sound like a paradox, but it’s not. It’s a function of the racism that shaped this city and its suburbs, and continues to influence our daily lives — and a stark reminder of the need for climate solutions that benefit everyone,” said Roth.
According to Roth, the primary finding of the study is that the amount of lung-damaging “fine particulate matter” that residents of a specific area of LA County are exposed to decreases by an estimated 0.62% for every one percent increase in miles driven to and from work by those residents.
He asked the study’s lead author, Geoff Boeing, a professor at the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy.
“He told me it largely comes down to the shameful history of Los Angeles County’s low-income communities of color being torn apart to make way for freeways — a history that has been extensively documented by The Times. Today, many residents of the county’s whiter, more affluent neighborhoods — who were often able to keep highways out of their own backyards — commute to work through lower-income Black and Latino neighborhoods bisected by the 10, 110 and 105 freeways and more.”
“It’s not like commuters are coming in and shopping in those communities, patronizing restaurants,” Boeing said. “They’re just driving through to get from one side of the city to the other.”
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The study itself is titled, “Local Inequities in the Relative Production of and Exposure to Vehicular Air Pollution in Los Angeles.” The study’s abstract defines its findings in explicitly racial terms.
“We find that, all else equal, tracts whose residents drive less are exposed to more air pollution, as are tracts with a less-White population. Commuters from majority-White tracts disproportionately drive through non-White tracts, compared to the inverse,” the researchers wrote.
They went on to say, “Decades of racially-motivated freeway infrastructure planning and residential segregation shape today’s disparities in who produces vehicular air pollution and who is exposed to it, but opportunities exist for urban planning and transport policy to mitigate this injustice.”
He shared one particular map from the study and wrote, “The red areas are places in L.A. County where commuters tend to be whiter than people who live there; the blue areas are places where commuters tend to be less white than people who live there.”
He later adds, “the map shows how residents of whiter, wealthier communities disproportionately drive to work through lower-income Latino and Black neighborhoods, spewing pollution. Residents of those neighborhoods can’t do much about it.”
Solutions he suggested range from “ending the sale of most gasoline vehicles” to allowing more apartment construction in wealthier neighborhoods.
The article received a lot of negative feedback.
The air is racist now https://t.co/tpOeaqX0qC
— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) March 9, 2023
Congratulations to the author of this piece @Sammy_Roth. You have managed to write not only the most idiotic but racist piece of 2023!
— Nick Short (@PoliticalShort) March 9, 2023
REMINDER: There aren’t separate communist groups. They’re all the same group with the same goal: Destroying this nation.
That’s why seemingly separate groups work together. The climate nutters work with the race hustlers who work with the LGBTQ demon mob who work with… https://t.co/UIFOLpeAa6
— Jesse Kelly (@JesseKellyDC) March 9, 2023
They should create a Pulitzer for dumbest articles of the millennium just so this article can win the price it deserves
— Tom Elliott (@tomselliott) March 9, 2023
This has become like old timey, nonsensical racism at this point…
— Tim Young (@TimRunsHisMouth) March 9, 2023