Climate Justice is Racial Justice
For centuries the world has been faced with both environmental and social hardships which have been highlighted during the COVID-19 pandemic. Within the past few months it has been made clear how certain races- often those considered minorities- are unfairly discriminated against by the police force and members of society. While many people may view environmental issues and climate change as a separate concern from racial inequality, there is actually a very prominent intersection. Environmental injustice, which is evident through the poor environmental conditions surrounding low income and minorty communities, is a form of discrimination against minorities.
As claimed by Eric Holthaus, a meteorologist and climate journalist, “The climate crisis is racist. The answer is anti-racism.” This claim was brought into place after Holthaus’ observations of climate change’s disproportionate effects on front-line populations, typically consisting of people of color, in comparison to neighborhoods that are wealthier and white dominated. The neighborhoods predominantly inhabited by those of color tend to lack transportation options, tree canopy and open spaces which help mitigate the hardships that climate change causes. Additionally, as researched by the NAACP, communities of color are typically amongst toxic facilities, many of which emit mercury, arsenic, and other contaminants into the food, lungs, and water of these communities. As a result, people of color who are restricted to living in these areas are much more inclined to suffer health effects such as lung disease, heat illnesses, and ischemic heart diseases. These poor conditions caused by environmental injustice, especially now with COVID-19, are resulting in people of color to die at higher rates than white people, and ultimately are creating a toxic pattern of injustice affecting minorities.
It is clear that society must undergo major changes to eliminate the racial injustices experienced by people of color. If society works to be more inclusive, for instance through environmental organizations, which are primarily white, and allowing more people of color to participate in them, there can be steps taken to begin implementing policies that prevent environmental injustice. By bringing awareness to this issue, a sense of morality is brought to our communities, leading more citizens to recognize and fight for environmental changes in the U.S., while actively working towards creating a more just and equal society for all people.