Are Racism And Climate Change Connected?
Join us in understanding how the way we treat our planet is felt by black and low-income communities, and the steps you can take toward an environmentally just future
By Kim Novak, Contributor
On May 25th, a 46-year-old black man named George Floyd bought cigarettes with a counterfeit $20 bill. 17 minutes after the first squad car arrived, Mr. Floyd was unconscious and pinned beneath three police officers, showing no signs of life.
Racist police brutality has been going on for hundreds of years, and it is time to say enough is enough. The Black Lives Matter movement has swept across not only the nation but all over the world and has brought to light the deep-rooted and complex nature of institutionalized racism.
What does this have to do with climate change?
“[There are] institutional rules, regulations, government policies and/or corporate decisions that deliberately target black and low-income communities for locally undesirable land uses and lax enforcement of zoning and environmental laws, resulting in communities being disproportionately exposed to toxic and hazardous waste based upon race” (Greenaction).
Would you want to live next to a hog processing plant? Or a hazardous waste landfill? Imagine waking up every morning to the smell of decaying flesh and rotten trash. You step outside with your morning coffee and you are met with a hazy breeze of heavily contaminated air. Oh, did you want to read a few pages from your favorite book? Just to ease your mind. There is incessant banging and screeching from smokestack industries and auto body shops.
These communities, these families are being exposed to literal toxic waste. They are breathing in extremely harmful polluted air. They are dying from respiratory infections, cardiovascular diseases, various cancers, and heat-related stress.
In 1990, leading environmental groups like Sierra Club and Environmental Defence Fund were accused of racial bias in policy development and hiring/the makeup of their boards. They were also challenged to address toxic contamination in the communities and workplaces of people of color and the poor. (NRDC) These organizations responded by developing environmental justice initiatives, adding people of color to the staff, and considered reforming their policy decisions. But there is still widespread injustice in these communities, and there is a need for change.
So how can you help?
Educate yourself on environmental racism and black history and how it has affected you, someone you know, or their families. Respect and celebrate black culture.
Promote eco-friendly economic alternatives, products and systems that contribute to the development of environmentally safe livelihoods. Let’s stop environmentally harmful facilities altogether.
Sign petitions and spread the word about demanding congress to address environmental racism.
Understanding the injustice is the first step toward healing it. No one deserves to be living in an unsafe, unstable, and unhealthy environment.
George Floyd was not only brutally and unjustly killed by white police enforcement, he was experiencing the extensive history and repercussions of environmental policies deliberately created to disadvantage him, his family, and his friends. George Floyd could not breathe. Not only when he was pinned beneath the knees of three police officers, but throughout his entire life, from incessant exposure to hazardous pollutants and toxic waste.
The less we invest in businesses and habits that negatively affect our planet, the more we are investing in the livelihood and wellbeing of colored and low-income communities. Black lives matter. Let’s come together to stop environmental racism!
Kim is a professional contributor to the Mama P marketing team. She is a yogi, wellness practitioner and daily meditator. Kim earned a BA in Business Administration and Marketing from The College of New Jersey and holds environmental certifications from various universities. Kim is actively working toward raising awareness of climate change and environmentally sustainable organizations.