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Hurricane Sandy and Low Income Residents, USA


In late October of 2012 Hurricane Sandy hit the United States Atlantic coast devistating coastal communities. The storm had a disproportionate impact on low income and minority communities and exposed the vulnerabilities of these communities to climate change impacts even in a developed nation. In the aftermath of the storm many communities demanded new adaptation measures to protect the vulnerable from increased intensity and frequency of storms conneced to climate change. The storm also churned up long buried chemicals from industrial sites and lead to dangerous levels of several chemicals including phosphorus and arsenic in water sources as well as waste water overflow.

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Hurricane Sandy and Low Income Residents, USA
Country:United States of America
State or province:New York and New Jersey
Location of conflict:Multiple cities
Accuracy of locationLOW (Country level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Fossil Fuels and Climate Justice/Energy
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Climate change related conflicts (glaciers and small islands)
Specific commodities:Fair Housing Access
Project Details and Actors
Project details

In the United States millions of people lost power or were displaced from their homes. There are 149 confirmed deaths attributed to Hurricane Sandy. (Alter, Diane. 'Hurricane Sandy: Reporting One Year Later.' The Suit Magazine)

Type of populationUrban
Start of the conflict:10/12/2012
Relevant government actors:FEMA, HUD, USEPA, Fish and Wildlife Services, White House, NOAA, Department of Homeland Security, and others.
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:New York City Environmental Justice Alliance, 350JerseyShore, 350NYC, WE ACT, Mobilization for Climate Justice, Environmental Justice Climate Change Initiative.
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Forms of mobilization:Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Media based activism/alternative media
Official complaint letters and petitions
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Global warming, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil contamination, Soil erosion, Waste overflow
Health ImpactsVisible: Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Deaths
Potential: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…)
Socio-economical ImpactsPotential: Displacement
Other socio-economic impactsHomelessness
Conflict outcome / response:Compensation
Environmental improvements, rehabilitation/restoration of area
Institutional changes
New legislation
Proposal and development of alternatives:Relocation of vulnerable residents, new requirements on building standards especially for public housing
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:Hurricane Sandy brought new attention to the impacts of climate change on low income and minority residents. However, the impact on national discourse was much less dramatic and shoter lived than past extreme weather events such as Hurricane Katrina. Hurricane Sandy did lead to some significant changes in federal adaptation and mitigation plans but the full implications of these changes for the EJ movement remain to be seen. Less momentum than early aftermath of the storm but still a vocal movement to draw attention to climate justice issues in the region.
Sources & Materials
Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

Sandy Recovery Improvement Act
[click to view]

Hurricane Sandy: Reporting One Year Later Written by Diane E. Alter
[click to view]

What Hurricane Sandy Should Teach Us About Climate Justice
[click to view]

Other comments:This is one of the top 40 influential environmental justice cases in the United States identified from a national survey of environmental activists, scholars and other leaders by graduate students at the University of Michigan
Meta information
Contributor:Katy Hintzen, [email protected], University of Michigan School of Natural Resources and Environment
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:367
Legal notice / Aviso legal
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