With breathable air being a resource inequitably distributed among populations based on race and socioeconomic status, this study’s objective was to analyze heat and air quality distributions in Richmond, Virginia and provide recommendations for minimizing its effects throughout the city. Richmond provided an ideal subject for this analysis as it has a lengthy history of racial segregation and discrimination and is one of the worst ranking cities for Asthma sufferers. Background was given on environmental racism as a means of systemic disproportionate pollution distribution to minorities, urban air pollution( via Fine Particulate Matter/PM 2.5) and the historical housing segregation process known as redlining. These aforementioned issues contributed greatly to the environmental vulnerability of parts of many American cities, including Richmond. Later, research was done on the specific environmental racism realities within Richmond. Using heat data from the summer 2021 Virginia Heat Watch Project, the CDC’s environmental vulnerability Index, historic maps of redlined neighborhoods in Richmond, and the Berkeley Environmental Justice Index, this study found that areas of Richmond with the greatest socioeconomic and environmental vulnerability to aggregate air and heat pollution were located in the poorest and most racial minority dense areas of Richmond. This analysis recommended that efforts to increase public awareness of environmental racism, continue to finetune an aggregate environmental justice index, and to create a government agency in charge of monitoring and reducing environmental vulnerability would be the best steps forward.

Paper prepared for the Environmental Studies Senior Seminar/Geography Capstone.

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Todd Lookingbill.

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