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It Takes a Community: How Hunting Park is Fighting for Climate Justice

“Some neighborhoods, at any given time, can be up to 22 degrees hotter than other neighborhoods.” -Cheyenne Flores, Philadelphia Office of Sustainability

Extreme heat in the summer is the reality for Hunting Park and other low-income Philadelphia neighborhoods. With far fewer trees and far more cement than wealthier areas, the “urban island effect” traps heat, causing the community to swelter in the summer. Older homes without proper insulation then require even more electricity to keep the inside temperature manageable, and utility bills skyrocket causing further financial pressure. 

“The environment is where we live, where we work, where we go to school, where we play and where we pray. The environment is what is around you. It’s your home. So healthy, safe, comfortable living conditions: can we advance that while we protect the larger home of the planet? I would say yes, we can and we have to.” - Mitch Chanin, 350 Philadelphia

Another problem faced by the Hunting Park community is pollution. The pollutants spewed into the air by refineries can permanently damage a person’s brain. Lynn Robinson, a teacher and a community resident, had already seen students struggling with learning issues due to environmental conditions. When she heard that Philadelphia’s transit system was wanting to build a plant in their community, she was shocked. “I found out about it from a flyer put on my door.” And even with sustained, long-term advocacy against the plant, neighbors were overruled and the gas station was built. 

Health conditions, extreme heat, high utility bills, polluted air. Hunting Park is not unique. These types of climate related issues are faced by low income neighborhoods throughout North America. But these problems do not represent the whole story. Instead, what IS unique in this Philadelphia community is the way Christians and community leaders have come together to fight for a better future. 

“Imagine there is a stream and there is a village. And there is a factory that is upstream pouring pollution into the water. So as they pour pollution into the water, people in the village are getting sick…There is a church there, and they recognize their calling to love their neighbor as themselves, so they say, ‘We need to care for these people who are sick,’ and so Christians do that. They keep taking care of these people who are getting sick. But that’s inadequate. That’s ignoring the fact that there is a factory upstream that is pouring pollution into the water.” Rev. Allen Drew, CWP Regional Organizer

This call to move beyond “band-aid efforts” into a deeper fight for good is the centerpiece of Climate Witness Project’s new documentary series, This is Hunting Park. These short films tell the stories of people who are making a difference by choosing hopeful action instead of despair. It shows how churches, organizations and individuals are stepping out to counteract climate injustice through neighborhood organizing, clean energy production, vocational training and community gardens. 

How do you get started in fighting climate injustice? We want to help you answer that question through this series and the corresponding study guide. Learn from the stories of faith leaders, neighbors, and organizers working to address environmental harm in actionable ways. See how trees, solar panels, and neighborhood activism can translate to your community. We hope  you are inspired to see what is possible and then go and take action. 

Explore the Hunting Park Series

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