Black Lives Matter x Climate Justice

The past week has had me reflecting and learning more about the important topics of racial justice and the work that needs to be done for true equality. I’m guilty of solely focusing on cultivating an eco-friendly lifestyle and demanding climate justice. I didn’t realise until now that they’re one and the same. Here’s a summary of what I’ve learnt about racial justice and climate justice.

How Black Lives Matter, racial justice and climate action intersect:

People of colour suffer the most from the effects of climate change

The catastrophic effects of climate change disproportionately affect disadvantaged nations and groups, including many people of colour. These communities on average have significantly smaller carbon footprints and contribute the least to global warming, yet bear the brunt of the climate crisis.

Greenpeace on their support for Black Lives Matter:

“Democracy should be the best tool we have to create change in our society, but it has to work properly. Corporate influence in American politics and disenfranchisement of Black Americans is getting in the way of progress on everything from climate change to police reform.

A democracy that puts people first is one in which people’s voices speak louder than industry money and wealthy interests — which means ensuring the right to vote and getting big money out of the political system

The Vision for Black Lives highlights how Black voices are suppressed through existing policies around voter suppression and big money in politics. It also names policies needed to ensure that Black voices are not just heard, but represented in all parts of the political process, from voting to holding elected office.

Policies like automatic voter registration and small-donor, publicly funded elections help ensure that Black voices are heard in our democracy while benefiting all Americans by putting the future of our democracy into the hands of people rather than wealthy corporations and the super-rich.”

Except from this Greenpeace article.

Murders of indigenous activists in Brazil are increasing

There’s been a wave of increasing violence against the Guajajara people and indigenous tribes across the Brazilian Amazon. A total of 10 indigenous people were killed in 2019, seven of which were indigenous leaders. This is the highest number in two decades, according to data from the Pastoral Land Commission.

Indigenous Amazonian tribes and their traditional lands are under an increasing threat from illegal logging and mining activity. Murders of indigenous leaders and people are occurring at an alarming rate. Little justice is carried out for the victims, their families and their communities.

Read more about Indigenous activist murders in Brazil.

Residents near toxic waste facilities are often people of colour

A 2007 report found racial disparities in US residents living near toxic waste facilities. Research shows people of colour comprised the majority of the population living within 1.8 miles of a toxic facility. Neighbourhoods with facilities clustered close together had an even higher percentage of people of colour as nearby residents. Living in proximity to these facilities has been linked to major health concerns and outcomes.

Research shows people of colour care more about climate change

In the US, research has shown people of colour are on average more concerned than White people about climate change. These include including Hispanics/Latinos, African Americans and other non-White ethnic groups. In fact, Hispanic/Latino voters tend to be the most concerned.

The Yale Program on Climate Change Communication found that Hispanics/Latinos (69%) and African Americans (57%) are more likely to be Alarmed or Concerned about global warming than Whites (49%). Meanwhile, Whites are more likely to be Doubtful or Dismissive (27%) about climate change than Hispanics/Latinos (11%) or African Americans (12%).

Indigenous Australians are disproportionately affected by polluting industries

According to the Indigenous climate activist group Seed, low ­income people, communities of colour, youth and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australias are on the frontlines of the climate crisis. These communities are hit first and worst; not only by the consequences of climate change but the impacts of extractive, polluting and wasteful industries that devastate the environment and fuel global warming.

For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, the environmental injustices go beyond the impacts of climate change. Fossil fuel extraction has been putting stress on their land, culture and communities for decades.

Indigenous Australians are a part of the oldest continuing culture and have lived in harmony with the land for millennia. But man-made climate change is disproportionately affecting indigenous peoples. First nations experience rising sea levels in the Torres Strait, the loss of sacred country as well as diminishing food and water accessibility.

Indigenous Canadians continue to battle fossil fuel expansion

Despite the fact that Canada is warming twice as fast as the rest of the world, the Canadian government has invested billions in fossil fuel pipeline projects. The expansion projects have been bitterly opposed by many indigenous and environmental groups. Construction of the controversial Trans Mountain pipeline has been stalled due to opposition from first nations, whose traditional lands are the planned site of the pipelines.

National Geographic spoke to the environmental activist group Indigenous Climate Action:

Rather than advocating for the closure of existing oil sands projects, Indigenous Climate Action opposes any expansion of the industry and is working to help communities make a transition away from oil and toward renewable energy projects, particularly those that are indigenous owned and operated. As a result, they are strongly opposed to the Trans Mountain pipeline, since it could help increase the size of oil sands operations and contribute more to climate change. Even worse, in their view, is the fact that the Trudeau government spent billions to buy the pipeline—money they would have liked to see improve the poor housing, water infrastructure, and energy deficits within indigenous communities.

Communities of colour have been hit hardest by COVID-19

According to Pew Research, Black Americans have been worse hit by the coronavirus pandemic. That’s because they account for a disproportionate share of deaths from the disease. Black Americans account for about 13% of the U.S. population but make up 24% of the COVID-19 death toll. In Kansas and Wisconsin, black people account for 6% of each state’s population but 29% and 26% of deaths respectively.

Public health experts have offered a range of reasons as to why. They include higher rates of preexisting health conditions, social and economic factors and long-standing inequities in health care access for black Americans in comparison to other racial groups.

Systemic changes are needed for climate and racial justice

The systemic changes that are needed to stop catastrophic climate change are the same changes that are needed to achieve racial equality.

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