White neighborhoods have greater abundance and diversity of animal life, and Canadian researchers say racism is to blame.
“Systemic racism alters the demography of urban wildlife populations in ways that generally limit population sizes and negatively affect their chances of persistence,” write the University of Manitoba, Winnipeg’s Chloé Schmidt and Colin J. Garroway in a study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
In a study that examined 39 terrestrial vertebrate species in 268 urban locations across the United States, the researchers found “generally consistent patterns of reduced genetic diversity and decreased connectivity in neighborhoods with fewer White residents.”
Schmidt and Garroway say racial segregation practices during the 1950s suburb boom played a major role, as they blocked racial and ethnic minorities from more desirable neighborhoods. This had the effect of sending white families in to the suburbs and concentrating blacks and other minorities in urban cores that grew increasingly dense. The effect was compounded by physical barriers, such as railroad tracks and highways.
The effects go beyond influencing current animal-population counts to include how these animals evolve: “Systemic racism is altering the demography of urban wildlife populations…in ways that can shape the evolutionary processes acting on them and the probability of long-term persistence in cities.”
The researchers say the lack of animal populations affect residents too. “These results are concerning because urban biodiversity is important for human mental and physical well-being, and disparities in access to nature build on existing health-related environmental disamenities in predominantly non-White neighborhoods.”
In search of a solution, some liberals may reflexively look to busing the animals. Schmidt and Garroway, however, call for “equitably distributing and increasing the amount and connectivity of natural habitat in cities.”
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