A Voice for Flint

This Jan. 21, 2016 photo shows the water tower at the Flint, Mich., water plant. Flint’s mayor has floated a shockingly hig
This Jan. 21, 2016 photo shows the water tower at the Flint, Mich., water plant. Flint’s mayor has floated a shockingly high price to fix the city’s lead-contamination problem, saying it could millions to replace damaged pipes. (Perry Rech/American Red Cross via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT

48501, is a zip code in Flint, Michigan. Due to environmental segregation, residents who live in this zip code and the others ones that make up the city of Flint have slowly been poisoned. What you may have already heard was that in 2014, government officials in Flint made a decision to switch Flint's main water supply to the notoriously known-to-be-contaminated Flint River - just to save money. What you might not have heard is that this crisis was caused by more than just poor decisions to save money, decaying infrastructure, or corrupt government;

Flint is an example of how our nation is still far too segregated. Areas such as Warren County, NC and St. Joseph, LA are very similar to Flint, MI; all exhibit high rates of poverty and have a large minority population. As you would expect, these areas also have more hazardous waste facilities, laxer emission laws, and weaker enforcement when people are caught dumping and polluting. Statistically, poorer cities are going to be the home of hazardous environmental sites such as waste facilities. Inevitably, it's poorer cities like these that are going to be the site of our next environmental calamity.

Why are cities with high levels of poverty home to hazardous environmental sites? This can simply be explained by economics. Poorer cities tend to have a lower real estate value, which makes it cheaper to set up hazardous environmental sites, and in effect devalues the neighboring land. People who are aware of the conditions and can afford to leave tend to relocate, leaving behind people who are unable to leave, and thus the cycle of environmental segregation begins. The segregation of wealth isn't necessarily a problem; however, it can have unintended consequences. The most critical consequence is that when the wealthy leave, the community often times loses its voice. In Flint, when residents voiced their concerns, they were ignored. But when an economic giant like GE complained about the water, GE was given access to fresh clean water. Simply put, money speaks.

Flint is a relatively small city that doesn't carry the star power or economic importance when compared to cities like New York or Los Angeles. Flint doesn't have a strong population of residents who are influential in the media, in the government, or in any other sphere. So, I'm here to aid in giving Flint a voice. By keeping Flint relevant in the news, the local government will be pressured to fix its wrongs. Unfortunately, it has taken national media attention to bring change to Flint. It wasn't until 2016, once the story broke out, for any notable action to be taken, despite this being a problem since 2014. Money speaks, but so do I and so do you. I want my neighbors in Flint to have access to clean water so I will continue to speak up for them.