Narratives surrounding climate change are often cloaked in whiteness.
For years, it’s been presented as a “white” issue, further perpetuating the idea that Black folk are removed from the environment, despite experiencing the brunt of its impacts.
The legacy of colonization, and its role in climate change, has also been long overlooked.
Thankfully, in 2022, a report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which was founded by the United Nations Environment Programme, listed colonization as a main contributing factor in the rapid changes our climate is experiencing.
This is a huge development for the future of the environment. By identifying the legacy of colonization in relation to climate change, people will be encouraged to acknowledge the pain and suffering Black folk have experienced, and continue to experience, due to climate change.
The term climate justice has come to the forefront as extreme changes in weather patterns — and a lack of governmental response to them — continue to affect Black folks across the diaspora.
Climate justice, and the movement that surrounds it, acknowledges how people of color are disproportionately affected by climate change, while cementing that progress in addressing the climate crisis begins at the structural level.
How Climate Change Impacts Black People
From air pollution to oil drilling, the impact of climate change on Black folks is far-reaching.
Research shows, for example, that formerly redlined communities have about twice as many oil and gas drilling sites as non-redlined, white communities — posing serious public health concerns.
Forcing Black folks to live in such close proximity to hazardous areas is a clear example of environmental racism and can lead to health problems including, but not limited to, asthma, nose bleeds, and respiratory cancer. Sadly, low-income Black communities are rarely given the proper resources to recover from these experiences.
Access to clean water is also an environmental issue, prompting things like water boil down orders in cities with large Black populations like Houston, Jackson, and Philadelphia.
Despite Joe Biden’s recent efforts to provide clean water to all Americans, through Waters of the United States (WOTUS) — an expansion of protections surrounding the nation’s water — having access to clean water and basic sanitation is still a dream for many Black people in underserved communities.
What You Can Do
Don’t get discouraged — You can do a lot to fight for climate justice.
- Get in touch with environmental organizations on both the local and national (see the Black Environmental Justice Network’s website) levels.
- Attend webinars and talks to learn more about climate justice and how it might impact your community.
- Support organizations and institutions, like HBCUs, advocating for climate justice.
- Improve community resiliency by supporting family, neighbors, and friends when extreme weather strikes.
- Most importantly, educate yourself and hold policymakers and leaders accountable for addressing the impacts of climate change in Black communities.
Solving the climate crisis may feel like an uphill battle, but Black folks remain resilient — as always.
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