Natural Building for Social Justice in the Deep South
According to the International African American Museum, “Nearly 80 percent of African Americans can potentially trace an ancestor who arrived in Charleston, SC.” The most recent poverty rates in Charleston, SC indicate 22.5% of the residents are living in poverty, with 56% of those living in poverty being of African American heritage. We also understand that the current poverty rates seen today in the African American community is a direct and residual result of decades of Federal and Local Government-mandated systematic racism embedded into housing policy during the Jim Crow era. Residual racist housing and zoning policies are still in effect today in much of the south, leading to a widening income gap and increased poverty level for many. Southern coastal cities are at ground zero for the effects of climate collapse which will affect those living in poverty the most; additionally, fast-paced gentrification continues to be a huge risk as land values & housing costs rise making it unaffordable for many of the African American families who have lived here for multiple generations and are now being uprooted, creating a loss of culture and diversity.
Lack of Affordable Housing coupled with a major need for resilient housing which will stand the test of time through a changing climate is a dire need. The loss of skilled trades(wo)men across all trades is affecting the cost of housing due to a larger demand than supply of builders. Women account for merely 1% of all construction laborers. Women also happen to be the most marginalized and impoverished population in most southern cities.
Natural Building practices can help to address each of these issues: Poverty/Affordable Housing, Resilient housing to address climate change, and the empowerment of women and other marginalized members of our society through community-building efforts and workforce training. We can draw a direct pathway from the knowledge of building with earth arriving in the south by way of the enslaved Africans brought to this coast. There is an opportunity for empowerment through the re-gaining of skills & knowledge-based in earth building.