Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Resilience to Climate Change in Underserved Communities

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Sustainability and Climate Change


Coastal communities in South Louisiana and worldwide are increasingly impacted by climate-related events such as hurricanes, floods, and rising sea levels. In addition, they have recently faced the burden of a global pandemic that may also be a consequence of climate change. In many under-resourced communities, nongovernmental community-based organizations (CBOs) represent the backbone of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, little is known about the pandemic's impact on the efforts of these organizations to support and sustain individual and community resilience to this event and to the disruptive impacts of climate change-related weather events. Procedures embedded in the Rapid Assessment Procedure - Informed Community Ethnography methodology were used to analyze data collected from semi-structured interviews with 26 representatives of 24 different community-based programs in South Louisiana. The pandemic created numerous challenges to under-resourced community resilience by revealing the fragmented nature of community solidarity in adhering to public health guidelines; the lack of available social, political, and economic resources; and the influence of systemic racism and social determinants of health. To address these challenges, communities relied on social connections and support; prior experiences with climate-related disasters and adversity; and the resilience building, supporting, and sustaining efforts of CBOs. These organizations have responded to these challenges through provision of new services, expansion of existing services, providing access to training webinars, partnerships with other CBOs, and initiatives to address broader social issues, while balancing the disparity between increased demand and reduced supply of services and increased reliance on technology that is not uniformly accessible to all communities and residents. In responding to the pandemic, CBOs have played a major role in addressing the threats to individual and community resilience needed to prepare for and respond to natural disasters and other consequences of global environmental change in underserved communities.

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