Global Warming, Pollution, Enviromental Racism & Black Women


I had a dream last night. I dreamed that we were living in the last days on earth and our ozone was gone. We were all frying slowly from the sun and there was chaos. They were loading people onto a giant spacecraft to transport as many people as possible to another planet to start life over again.

Black women were the last ones to be loaded onto the aircraft  and by the time it got around to us, there wasn’t any more room.

It got me thinking. Global warming is an important issue and it affects Black women just as much as anyone else. Up until recently, however, Black women (and Black people in general) have been left out of the wider discourse on global climate change.

Lisa Jackson, an African-American woman, was the first African-American to sever as Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator. She was recommended by Obama and served from 2009-2013. There is also an African-American Environmentalist Association and other’s, but African-Americans and people of color have been pushed aside it seems in the mainstream media (what else is new?), yet we are extremely vulnerable to  the negative affects of pollution and climate change and there has not been enough awareness in the Black community of this.

The intersection between race and environmentalism came to the forefront during Hurricane Katrina when global climate change caused a massive storm to pound New Orleans and the gulf coast on an unprecedented level. Now, which group of people was left behind to fend for themselves during Hurricane Katrina…poor people, MOSTLY poor Black people, whose lives were not deemed valuable enough by the government to step in BEFORE the Hurricane hit to evacuate people.

Science tells us that Hurricanes increase in vigor by drawing heat from the surface of the ocean and as global warming has brought the surface of the water temperature up one degree (which is significant enough to impact climate change) within the last century, the possibility of more Katrina-sized Hurricanes occurring in the near-future IS VERY LIKELY!

The intersection between race and environmentalism is exemplified again by looking at the amount of toxic waste that is thrown into low-income Black neighborhoods. A study showed that when you poor, communities of color are more exposed to harmful pollutants such as zinc, sulfate and other harmful carcinogens than poor whites and middle/upper class whites. These pollutants that we breathe in through the air end up in our lungs and our bodies and they can lead to health problems like asthma or even cancer.

It is not uncommon for the poor, communities of color to be located near landfills and chemical plants, which can all emit harmful chemicals into the air that they breathe in. This is because society apparently doesn’t have a problem exposing these chemicals, which are harmful to the environment and to human life, to poor people-of-color, namely African-Americans, Native Americans and Latinos.

The harmful emissions from factories and pollution have also contaminated drinking water in poor Black areas. The National Black Environmental Justice network has campaigned for better drinking water for poor Black/people-of-color. One young woman who was exposed to toxic drinking water, due to chemicals emitted from a near by landfill joined the campaign after she developed cancer.

Representative from the National Black Environmental Justice Network writes,

“Historically, African American and other people of color communities have borne a disproportionate burden of pollution from landfills, garbage dumps, incinerators, sewage treatment plants, chemical industries and a host of other polluting facilities. Many dirty industries have followed the “path of least resistance” allowing communities of color to become environmental “sacrifice zones” and the “dumping grounds” for all kinds of health-threatening operations.”

On a global scale, people of African-descent and people of color suffer the consequences of environmental racism. Various African countries and the Organization of African Unity have had to challenge laws that allowed well-developed countries to import hazardous waste materials into less developed African countries for years.

Although, according to wikipedia, the majority of African-coutries produce between 0-5,000 tons of C02 emissions per year, compared to 5 million or more C02 emissions by the United States per year, the climate change is still affecting people in African countries because the increased temperature leads to drought, famine and poverty. So, even though African (As a continent) has the lowest C02 emission, which is a very good thing, they still suffer the affects of climate change on a global scale. In addition, some countries in Africa that are still developing do not have the funds to enforce environmental protective measures.

There have also been studies that have shown that global warming and climate change will lead more women into prostitution due to famine, drought, natural disaster etc…and since Black women are already a poorer group than other women, it seems inevitable that this will affect Black women.

Now, my dream may seem far-fetched, but I just read an article that says there is a group that is accepting applications for the first group of people who would like to colonize Mars. I am wondering who the prospective inhabitants will be…wondering if it will be a diverse reflection of the human race or not.

However, the point is that Environmental concerns are of great relevance to Black women and to all people overall.

So, this really isn’t about just Black women, it’s about everyone. Everyone who lives on this planet has a responsibility toward it and we cannot exclude certain groups of people when it comes to environmental protection because at the end of the day, we may be pushing poor, Black women and poor people of color into the neighborhoods that are closest to those toxic chemical factories and we may be pushing people of color into the regions that are most vulnerable to natural disaster, but those chemicals are still going up into the atmosphere and still slowly killing off OUR PLANET that is inhabited BY ALL PEOPLE. So, at the end of the day everyone should be concerned about this type of environmental racism because ti will only come back to bite HUMANITY, all of humanity in the azz at the end of the day.

Instead of investing so much money into flying select groups of people to colonize Mars, why not focus on  taking care of the planet that we inhabit right now. Why not invest some billions of dollars into combating pollution in low income areas, why not devote some of that time and effort to right pollution, poverty, famine and improve the earth that we were born into. If we can’t even take care of our own planet and be stewards of our own environment  how can we expect to be stewards of a new planet?

Please check out the links to the website for National Black Enviromental Justice and also check out 50 ways to help save the planet:

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