How Environmental Racism Disproportionately Affects People of Color
- To reverse environmental destruction and fight for climate justice, we must also address the issue of systemic racism. Climate justice is racial justice.
The current destruction of the environment is one of the most, if not the most, pressing issues of our time. Climate change is contributing to rising sea levels, shifting weather patterns, disastrous flooding, threatened food production, and more, putting billions of lives at risk. Human actions are contributing to the rapid acceleration of the harmful effects of climate change, as observed with deforestation, large scale agriculture, industrialization, and deforestation.
The United Nations warns of the devastating effects of climate change on the world, seen with the increase in average global temperature, warming oceans, the melting of ice caps, and the more frequent appearance of natural disasters.
Experts say that the point of no return is approaching or has already been passed in the destruction of major ecosystems. Despite these warnings with regard to the end of the world as we know it, many continue to ignore experts and carry on with their destructive lifestyles.
While world leaders came together in 1995 for the Kyoto Protocol and 2015 for the Paris Agreement, to try to find a solution to this issue, President Trump withdrew the United States from the Paris Agreement in 2017. He has instead allocated funding to coal mining and fracking, easing regulations on the crude oil industry.
Most recently, the Trump Administration has weakened emissions standards for vehicles, which will lead to Americans having to pay more for fuel and will significantly increase greenhouse gas emissions. During the Covid-19 pandemic, they have also rolled back certain hunting restrictions, putting many species and fragile ecosystems at risk.
Climate change isn’t simply an issue of protecting endangered species or stopping the melting of ice caps, however. Environmental issues prevail in everyday communities, harming innocent citizens with diseases, toxic runoff, and polluted air supplies. None are more affected by this issue in the United States than communities of color. Toxic facilities are most often present in closer proximity to communities of color or low-income neighborhoods, poisoning the bodies and resources of the people that live in these regions.
In cities like Chicago and Detroit, community members have died from exposure to toxins emitted from power plants fueled by coal and other harmful facilities. In addition, the increased frequency of devastating storms due to warming oceans will eventually lead to the destruction of Inuit communities, as well as those in the Bahamas, Louisiana, and more.
Many communities of color already struggle to gain access to fresh produce and food, having to consume preservative full, processed items. The continuation of these droughts, storms, and natural disasters will devastate food production and make it more difficult for people in these low-income regions to afford or access nutrient dense food, further harming their health.
People of color are disproportionately affected by the catastrophic effects of climate change. To reverse the effects of environmental destruction and fight for climate justice, we must also address the issue of systemic racism. Not only are innocent people of color being shot dead by police in the streets, they are being silently killed and internally mutilated over generations, by the air they breathe, the water they drink, and the food they eat.
With the increasing number of COVID-19 cases in America, people of color are at a greater risk of dying from this virus, due to respiratory conditions caused by the poor air quality and pollution in their communities. Environmental racism kills.
Ishani Peddi is a rising senior at Starr’s Mill High School in Peachtree City, Georgia. Born and raised in Southern California, she moved to Georgia last year. She has been writing as long as she can remember and published a fictional work in middle school. A passionate poet, who has won numerous literary competitions, Ishani is involved in various clubs and organizations within her school and community. She is the Communications Director for the Georgia High School Democrats, the Vice President of the Starr’s Mill High School Young Democrats, a Civil Air Patrol Cadet, and an AAPIs for Biden Intern, to name a few.