Environmental Racism

A Yale School of the Environment interview opens: “The killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police and the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on African Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans have cast stark new light on the racism that remains deeply embedded in U.S. society. It is as present in matters of the environment as in other aspects of life: Both historical and present-day injustices have left people of color exposed to far greater environmental health hazards than whites.” To which the Anglican Communion’s Environmental Network adds: “Black lives are disproportionately affected by police brutality; COVID-19 sweeps through crowded vulnerable communities unable to socially distance; toxic dump sites are placed next to poor communities of Black people; indigenous people are forced off their land.” And an awarding winning film, “The Condor and the Eagle” tracks the devastation of indigenous communities by the oil, gas and petrochemical industries in the Americas.
In this time of outrage at systemic racism, we need to remember that part of the system is exposing people of color to the worst environmental pollution. This is one of the reasons that people of color are more likely to have asthma, cancer, emphysema, heart disease, and other conditions that make them more vulnerable to Covid-19 and more likely to die of it. Along with personal efforts to use less plastic, to grow some of their own food, to shop for local produce, to stop using strong chemicals in the household and on lawns, and to lobby for strong environmental regulations, there is good reason for environmentalists to support movements like Black Lives Matter, Native American Lives Matter and Latino Lives Matter in the fight for racial justice and to learn about and lobby about environmental racism.

Leave a Reply