THE LINK BETWEEN THE ENVIRONMENT,
CLIMATE, AND RACIAL JUSTICE
“To white people who care about maintaining a habitable planet, I need you to become actively anti-racist. I need you to understand that our racial inequality crisis is intertwined with our climate crisis. If we don’t work on both, we will succeed at neither.”
Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson (via The Washington Post)
As a brand that sells natural and organic family apparel, we often speak about sustainability, environmental issues, and how we, as individuals, can become healthier in our daily lives. But one area we have not addressed, is the link between climate and racial justice.
At first glance, the two subjects seem unrelated. But if you dive deeper into the issues that contribute to and worsen our environmental issues, you will find that they are actually very connected.
- Landfills, hazardous waste sites, and other industrial facilities are most often located in communities of color.
- Lead poisoning disproportionately affects children of color - 11.2% for African Americans vs 2.3% for white children.
- Water contamination plagues low-income areas and communities of color across the nation which can lead to blood disorders and cancer.
- In a science-based research study, they found whites experience about 17 percent less air pollution than they produce, through consumption, while blacks and Hispanics bear 56 and 63 percent more air pollution, respectively, than they cause by their consumption.*
The hard truth is, people of color - many who live in economically challenged areas and experience higher poverty rates - are more likely to live near polluters, drink polluted water and breathe polluted air, which can cause cancer, respiratory illnesses and other health problems.
Heightening these problems are the polluting industries (hazardous waste facilities and other big corporate polluting giants), who target these lower income communities due to lax government regulation for these areas.
“We see firsthand how these groups suffer disproportionately from industrial pollution, toxic waste, and other forms of frontline environmental hazard and harm. This, too, is the result of deeply entrenched racist patterns and policies, the direct upshot of which is physical suffering and premature death.” - Mitch Bernard, Executive Director and Chief Counsel of the National Resources Defense Council
Contributing to the cycle are the disproportionate amount of fast-food restaurants, densely packed into their communities. Lack of access to healthy foods and multi-billion dollar marketing campaigns that target people of color, and pay governmental agencies to turn a blind eye and ignore regulations, causes minorities to consume unhealthy food and suffer from higher rates of diet-related disorders than whites.
This horrific cycle impacts public health, fast-food workers, animal welfare, and in the end, the environment as a whole.
According to a report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations,14.5 percent of all human-induced emissions are from the consumption of animal products, which is the dominant driver of fast food production. By 2050, consumption of meat products is expected to rise 76 percent, with “beef” and cow milk production accounting for the majority of emissions.
Then there’s fast-food packaging, which makes up almost half of the litter found on U.S. streets. And to add the final crushing blow, many fast-food companies coat their paper packaging with perfluoroalkyls, which are toxic compounds that harm the environment and human health, in an effort to prevent grease leakage.
It’s a toxic and unhealthy cycle of racial and environmental injustice, that continues and is passed down through systemic cultural upbringings, lack of prioritization and attention by bodies that can affect change, and simply put, a mass culture of ignorance and neglect.
THE REALITY OF RACIAL AND ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE
“So never lose an opportunity of urging a practical beginning, however small, for it is wonderful how often in such matters the mustard-seed germinates and roots itself.”Florence Nightingale
The truth is, racism and racial injustice is much more than just fixing the problem of systemic racism and societal inequality, it’s about economic, environmental, and governmental issues. At the root of seeking change, we need to dig deeper to the root of the problem - the lack of connection, respect, and compassion we, as humans, have for life itself.
The recent and progressive unrest in the world, the pandemic, the environmental crisis - have been tragic, and they all are strong urges by Mother Earth herself, that change MUST happen.
Our abundant and beautiful natural world and all of humanity on it, are in a state of HURT. There is deep healing that needs to take place, and it’s not a problem that can be solved overnight. It can’t be solved with a social media post, a hashtag, or the government.
It does involve all of those things, but at the very root of creating change is each of us as individuals. To start where we are and with who we are.
With every dollar we spend, every choice we make, and every word we speak, we are either creating and feeding a solution, or we are digging a deeper hole. From where we shop, to what we teach our children, it comes to each of us as individuals and our own connection to ourselves. Our values. Our morals. And our acknowledgement of our own responsibility to BE the change.
A few things each of us can do TODAY, to start the change from where we are - because the first step - however small - will lead to the next, and then the next, and soon the confluence of individual changes will become the force that will lead to justice.
- Read up on Environmental justice - what it is and how it is linked to racism
- Find environmental campaigns you can take action on
- Use social media for good by following people & organizations that fight for climate justice and racial equality (here are just a few)
“Because without justice, there can be no livable future for people or the planet.”
Abigail Dillen, President of Earthjustice