Don Cheadle: Home. It's where we celebrate our triumphs, make our memories and confront our challenges. And these days there are plenty of those. An historic pandemic, wildfires, floods and hurricanes all threaten our basic safety. These challenges hit even harder in communities that have been cut out of equal opportunities.
In the US, unfair and racist housing policies, called redlining, have for decades forced Black, brown, Indigenous and poor white families into areas rife with toxic chemicals that make people sick. They are surrounded by concrete that traps heat. Extreme temperatures demand more cooling, more money, more energy, more carbon. Our problems are interconnected. Imagine all we can do when we realize the solutions are too.
At the Solutions Project, we've seen that some of the people most impacted by COVID-19, least likely to have a steady place to call home and most affected by the damage to our climate are already working on effective and scalable solutions. Take Buffalo and Miami, where affordable housing has become a community solution to the climate crisis.
Rahwa Ghirmatzion: Buffalo, New York, is the third poorest city in the United States and sixth most segregated, but our people power is strong. Over the last 15 years, my organization, PUSH Buffalo, has been working with residents to build green affordable housing, deploy renewable energy and to grow the resilience and power in our communities.
When we saw heating bills soar over the last decade, we organized to pass state policy, help small businesses and to put our people to work weatherizing homes. We responded with eco-landscaping and green infrastructure. When record rainfalls flooded our neighborhoods, we replaced the concrete that overwhelmed and made heat waves unbearable.
Let us visit School 77, an 80,000-square-foot public school building that was closed and abandoned for nearly a decade. But PUSH Buffalo and the community transformed it into solar-powered, affordable senior apartments and a community center. This is what the community wanted. When private developers were eyeing that school building for high-end loft apartments, 800 residents mobilized and came up with the plan. We became New York State's first community solar project and during the coronavirus pandemic, a volunteer-run Mutual Aid Hub.
Zelalem Adefris: At Catalyst Miami and the Miami Climate Alliance, we work with dozens of other organizations to enact policies that provide safe housing and protect the climate. Here in Miami, we've seen a 400-percent increase in tidal flooding between 2006 and 2016 and have seen 49 additional 90-degree days per year since 1970. We fought for the Miami Forever Bond to fund 400 million dollars for affordable housing and climate solutions. Yet every day, we continue to see luxury high-rise condos being built in our neighborhoods, adding more concrete and heat on the ground. Some of our members are taking matters into their own hands, literally.
Conscious Contractors is a Grassroots Collective that formed during Hurricane Irma to protect, rebuild and beautify our communities, all while increasing energy efficiency. They don't think that anyone should have to choose between paying a high AC bill and living in a hot and moldy house that will worsen respiratory illnesses such as asthma or coronavirus. They fix problems at the source.
Advocates across the country are holding their governments accountable to climate solutions that keep their communities in place. We need to push for more affordable housing, green infrastructure and flood protections because these are the solutions that solve many problems at once.
DC: Climate change is the epic challenge of our lives, but we're confident we can solve it. Community leaders like Rahwa and Zelalem are already doing it. We can create the future we want, but getting there is going to take everyone contributing around the world, wherever we call home.