Gun Violence and Environmentalism
by Sarah Grace Ward
Sarah Grace is a student at Unity College working towards her Masters in Public Science in Wildlife Conservation and Management. She has a particular interest in how ethics and political systems connect to and shape the environmental movement. Each week in February, Sarah Grace will spotlight a different topic in pursuit of her capstone project. Please fill out survey questions to help her research and development.
As a thank you for participating, Happy Earth will be providing 25pts for each week's survey submission!
In 2021, 3,597 children died from gun violence. In 2022, 45,222 people died of gun violence. Gun violence encompasses suicide and homicide, and most deaths related to a firearm in recent years are suicides. However, 79% of murders in the United States in 2020 involved a gun. Within the top ten warmest years on record include the years of 2013-2021. As gun violence has been increasing, so has the number of warmer days on record.
There are a few parallels between environmentalism and gun violence. Climate change has been deemed not only an environmental crisis, but also a public health crisis. With countless communities feeling the negative impacts of climate change, it would be cruel not to label it as a public health crisis. Communities are lacking clean air and water, lacking access to proper waste management, and being impacted by natural disasters from the impacts of climate change. Similarly, gun violence in America has been classified as a public health crisis. Environmental issues are significantly more likely to impact lower-income communities and youth in these communities who are also more likely to die from gun violence. At the end of 2022, an additional connection between environmentalism and gun violence was found.
Recently, a link between warmer days and an increase in gun violence was determined. Across the country, cities are experiencing a spike in warmer weather. The study, published in JAMA Network Open, found a relationship between warmer temperatures and an increased risk in shootings in 100 of the most populated cities in America. In the Northeast and Midwest, regions experience the greatest correlation between an increase in gun violence and warmer temperatures. The study also found that almost 7% of shootings can be attributed to higher daily temperatures, even after seasons change. It is estimated that the correlation between climate change and gun violence will continue to increase in upcoming years. This correlation could be attributed to the lack of heat adaptation humans have gained through evolution, as the dramatic increase in temperature has only happened in the past few hundred years. Other researchers have determined that heat mitigations strategies can be incorporated into racial justice, climate change mitigation, and gun violence prevention.
Environmentalism seems like a ‘one-track’ discipline, however through studying climate change and environmentalism, individuals will be exposed to the many parts of intersectionality environmentalism has to offer. Environmentalism does not only focus on biodiversity or climate change, but also seeks to understand how lower-income communities, communities of color, and other marginalized communities are impacted negatively due to climate change. Similarly, when researching environmentalism, we now can try to understand the connection between the ecosystems that surround us and the gun violence that is tearing through our country, and ways to mitigate both. To get involved with gun violence prevention, individuals can demand safer and sensible gun laws, become involved in the Prevention Institute and other gun violence prevention organizations, support gun violence research, and participate in community healing. To prevent the effects of climate change, individuals can demand more expansive environmental laws, transition to a more plant-based diet, save energy at home and through their transportation, and reduce their waste.
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References: 2021 was world's 6th-warmest year on record. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. (2022, January 13). Retrieved February 13, 2023, from https://www.noaa.gov/news/2021-was-worlds-6th-warmest-year-on-record
Gebeloff, R., Ivory, D., Marsh, B., Mccann, A., & Sun, A. (2022, December 14). Childhood's greatest danger: The data on Kids and Gun Violence. The New York Times. Retrieved February 13, 2023, from https://www.nytimes.com/interactive2022/12/14/magazine/gun-violence-children-data-statistics.html
Gramlich, J. (2022, May 16). What the data says about gun deaths in the U.S. Pew Research Center. Retrieved February 13, 2023, from https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2022/02/03/what-the-data-says-about-gun-deaths-in-the-u-s/
Gun violence must stop. here's what we can do to prevent more deaths. Prevention Institute. (n.d.). Retrieved February 13, 2023, from https://www.preventioninstitute.org/focus-areas/preventing-violence-and-reducing-injury/preventing-violence-advocacy
Johnson, S. R. (2021, November 23). Study: Youth in poor areas more likely to die from gun violence. US News. Retrieved February 14, 2023, from https://www.usnews.com/news/health-news/articles/2021-11-23/study-youth-in-poor-areas-more-likely-to-die-from-gun-violence
Petty, K. (2022, December 16). Warm days are contributing to gun violence surge across the US. SPH Warm Days Are Contributing to Gun Violence Surge across the US Comments. Retrieved February 13, 2023, from https://www.bu.edu/sph/news/articles/2022/warm-days-are-contributing-to-gun-violence-surge-across-the-us/
Understanding socio-environmental and physical risk factors influencing firearm violence. Understanding Socio environmental and Physical Risk Factors Influencing Firearm Violence | Office of Justice Programs. (n.d.). Retrieved February 13, 2023, from https://www.ojp.gov/ncjrs/virtual-library/abstracts/understanding-socio-environmental-and-physical-risk-factors