Climate change and BME communities: flooding, heatwaves and lost connections

Kate Damiral was Climate Change Project Officer at NCVO from April 2011 until April 2013. Kate no longer works for NCVO but her posts have been archived on this site for reference.

Risks of flooding, heatwaves and lost connections with family and friends in other parts of the world were top of the list of issues for our second climate change project workshop for black and minority ethnic (BME) organisations in Greater Manchester on 20 June.

Dr Aleksandra Kazmierczak from the EcoCities project at Manchester University explained how the two climate-related trends of increased surface water flooding and heatwaves are likely to hold particular threats for BME communities living in urban parts of the area.

Listen to Aleks’ summary of her presentation in this video and take a look at her annotated slides [PDF 700KB].

Priorities

We also revisited the long list of climate change implications that the group had created in the first workshop and began to identify the most significant issues for each participating organisation, and for the BME communities they support. This sifting and sorting exercise will be used in the final workshop in the autumn to help each VCO to develop a climate change action plan.

There were a range of shared priorities amongst the group, including:

  • Need for information on keeping cool in hot weather and on how to reduce people’s carbon footprint
  • The risk of losing contact with root communities in other parts of the world that face more immediate and problematic climate impacts, along with the worry, isolation and loss of identity this could bring
  • The threat of escalating racism and unrest due to the wider climate change problems
  • Vulnerability of urban BME communities in poor quality housing from flooding and heatwaves.

It’ll be interesting to explore the implications of these shared concerns a bit more when we meet next time.

We were also joined by the people behind the Manchester Climate Monthly website, Arwa and Marc, who gave participants a run down of what else is happening locally on climate change, so that our participants can develop their work in context. Download the summary of climate change activity in Greater Manchester [PDF 130KB].

Talking climate change

Earlier in the day, we reviewed the discussion exercise we had asked participants to carry out with their trustees and colleagues. In total, over 130 people had taken part and this included members of staff, volunteers, trustees, community group members – even a reverend and someone’s neighbour!

Here are some insights from the in-house discussions:

  • Climate change will bring rising costs – through different triggers
  • There will be opportunities/benefits as well as problems eg fewer winter deaths, new technological developments
  • There’s a need for deep thinking about adapting to climate change as well as reducing carbon emissions
  • Some people appear very selfish! Material wealth is the top priority for many people
  • This is a topic for everyone, not just the ‘greens’ – labelling BME communities as ‘hard to reach’ shouldn’t be an excuse not to engage people.

On the whole, everyone found the booklet [PDF 420KB] we provided pretty user friendly and useful for prompting thinking. Depending on who they were actually talking to, some people felt that the resource needed more context or could be edited for different audiences. It sounds like several organisations are thinking of translating the booklet to use in the next stage of the project: working directly with service users.

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