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Environmental Justice. Ricardo Levins Morales, scratchboard, ink, and watercolor.
Today, as we look back at the life and legacy of Dr. King, we remember that although he tragically died before the environmental movement had begun, his call for justice and civil rights inspired other movements like our own. Former Attorney General Eric Holder said in a speech honoring King at the Environmental Protection Agency in 2011, that “Dr. King, in addition to his many other achievements, helped to plant the seeds for what would become our nation’s now-thriving environmental justice movement. Holder went on to say:
“Dr. King did not have the chance to witness the impact of the movement he began. But he left us with the creed that continues to guide our work. His enduring words – which he penned from a Birmingham jail cell – still remind us that, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
This truth was understood – and honored – by the coalitions of activists who rallied against hazardous waste dumps near African-American communities in the 1970s and ‘80s. Their activism helped to drive updates in our environmental laws. President Clinton’s 1994 Executive Order – which required each federal agency to address environmental justice in minority and low-income populations – was also an important step forward. And the work that the EPA and the Department of Justice have led to ensure that our environmental laws and protections extend to all people – regardless of race, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status – has strengthened this tradition of progress.
But the simple, and unfortunate, fact is that we still are not where we want, and where we need, to be.”
76% of the two million residents living within three miles of one of the 12 “worst [coal-fired] plants” are people of color
21% of black children have been diagnosed with asthma and 16% still have asthma
15% of Hispanic children have been diagnosed with asthma and 10% still have asthma
12% of white children have been diagnosed with asthma and 8% still have asthma
18% of children in poor families have been diagnosed with asthma and 13% still have asthma
Why This Matters: Everyone in the U.S. is entitled to breathe the same clean air, and to drink the same clean water, and to have the same degree of safety from environmental, health, and climate change hazards. And they have the right to the same opportunities to participate in the decision-making processes that ensure we all have a healthy environment in which to live, learn, and work. We have a long way to go.
Wilton Gregory, appointed the first African American Catholic cardinal, is an ally in the fight against global warming. He not only believes in climate change, but he also has supported the Pope’s landmark environmental treatise— “Laudato Si:’ On Care for our Common Home” —when many archbishops in the United States did not, and put together a plan to address the Pope’s concerns about climate change that has been an inspiration for other faith leaders in Boston, Columbus, Minneapolis, San Diego, and other cities.
This week, just in time for Thanksgiving, we talk with Adam Kolton, the Executive Director of the Alaska Wilderness League about the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Arctic Indigenous Communities, and conserving Alaskan wilderness. Watch the entire interview. Here are a few highlights: On the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge: “This is the area where hundreds of […]
This week we had the pleasure of sitting with Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, Indonesia’s Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs and Investment, a title he’s held since October 2019. We asked the minister about how Indonesia is balancing the precarious equation of conserving its rich biodiversity while addressing the duel climate and COVID crises. Now that […]
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