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World Habitat Day: Climate Crisis Highlights Need for Environmental Protection and Sufficient Shelter for All

Governments must do more to protect communities at risk, while saving our environment.

By Katie Ingegneri on October 1, 2021

In 1985, the United Nations designated the first Monday in October every year as World Habitat Day, to reflect on the importance of a healthy human habitat and right to sufficient shelter for all. As the climate crisis worsens, with severe storms impacting millions of people, and as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage around the world, it’s more crucial than ever that all communities are protected, along with our natural world. 

The theme of this year’s World Habitat Day is “Accelerating urban action for a carbon-free world,” which the United Nations has described as recognizing “that cities are responsible for some 70 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions with transport, buildings, energy, and waste management accounting for the bulk of urban greenhouse gas emissions.” As many cities in the United States and beyond were affected by destructive storms this summer, the urgency of acting on climate change and transitioning to a clean, sustainable energy future is greater than ever. 

Supporting Communities at Risk During Climate Events

When severe storms and disasters hit, it is often Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) communities who suffer first — while often being overlooked for federal aid, charitable giving, and other recovery support. People who are unhoused are also at profound risk during severe weather events — and combined with major issues such as the global COVID-19 pandemic, a “healthy habitat” comes to mean a place where people can live safely and securely without being at risk for contracting illnesses or losing their shelter.

A recent profile of UUSC partner Chief Shirell Parfait-Dardar, of the Grand Caillou/Dulac Band of Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw Tribe, profoundly highlighted the tragic impact of Hurricane Ida on communities like hers in coastal areas of Louisiana, as her home and the homes of other members of the Tribe were destroyed. The need for safe and secure shelter will be more crucial than ever as climate effects worsen — and people of faith and conscience must advocate for safe shelter for all. 

Following the Lead of Indigenous Communities to Protect the Environment

Many of UUSC’s partners from Indigenous communities around the world have often noted the fact that they have done the least to contribute to carbon emissions, while being the world’s greatest stewards of biodiversity, and indeed, a recent study showed that “Indigenous-led resistance to 21 fossil fuel projects in the U.S. and Canada over the past decade has stopped or delayed an amount of greenhouse gas pollution equivalent to at least one-quarter of annual U.S. and Canadian emissions.”

Indigenous communities and other groups who have historically and presently been the subject of oppressive systems deserve better than having to bear the brunt of devastating climate impacts that they didn’t cause. And all people deserve to live in a healthy, clean, safe world run on sustainable energy that does not pollute and destroy the one planet we call home.

Taking Action for Healthy Habitats

On World Habitat Day, we must all commit to advocating for healthy and safe habitats for all: from protecting our natural world, to ensuring frontline communities most impacted by climate change are safe. It also means committing to an understanding of how climate change impacts people around the world: If storms are already causing deadly flooding in places like New York City, it is crucial that we petition President Biden’s administration and our elected representatives to put robust safeguards in place and advocate for a green, healthy future for all. 

You can take action with UUSC to contact your elected representatives in Congress and demand our government respond to global challenges in ways that uplift human dignity and honor human rights

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About UUSC: Guided by the belief that all people have inherent worth and dignity, UUSC advances human rights globally by partnering with affected communities who are confronting injustice, mobilizing to challenge oppressive systems, and inspiring and sustaining spiritually grounded activism for justice. We invite you to join us in this journey toward realizing a better future!

Image Credit: iStock – CHUYN

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