The speech delivered by Martin Luther King Jr. on Aug. 28, 1963, at least a hundred years in the making, was the catalyst for the passage of the Civil Rights Act, and later the Voting Rights Act and Fair Housing Act, and helped elevate the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development into a cabinet-level agency.
The 50th anniversary ceremony was a time to reflect on the successes and to highlight the areas where the struggle is still fresh. Appropriately, the emphasis was placed on restoring voting rights, opposing voter disenfranchisement, fighting "stand your ground" laws and for wage equity. Surprisingly the ceremony included little mention about environmental justice and how people of color suffer disproportionately from polluted air and water, and are the first to suffer because of climate change.
A new study published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives digs deep under the sidewalks and streets that are soaking up all this new heat in our cities — and finds that not all neighborhoods and racial groups are faring equally. According to the research, blacks, Asians, and Latinos are all significantly more likely to live in high-risk heat-island conditions than white people.Keep reading below the fold for more on civil and environmental rights.
At first glance, this seems to make some sense: Due to a long history of racist policies and lending practices, people of color are more likely than whites to live in poor neighborhoods. Neighborhood infrastructure in poor areas is mostly made of concrete and asphalt (with some soil here and there, often tinged with heavy metals). Those “impervious surfaces” conduct heat like crazy, and turn these areas into "heat islands" surrounded by their richer, greener neighbors. But this study found something entirely new: The heat-island effect and lack of neighborhood trees is more closely correlated with race than it is with class.
Environmental Justice – Many low income people and minorities face environmental challenges that threaten their health and their lifestyle. In Los Angeles, African Americans are twice as likely to die in a heat wave. 68% of African Americans live within 30 miles of a coal plant and this creates more incidences of asthma. Latino children are twice as likely to die from an asthma attack as non- Latino children. There are many more issues related to the environment that impact outcomes for these communities.A report by the Environmental Justice and Climate Change Initiative states that:
Climate change is no longer just an environmental issue. It’s now an issue of race, according to global warming activists and policy makers.“It is critical our community be an integral and active part of the debate because African-Americans are disproportionately impacted by the effects of climate change economically, socially and through our health and well-being,” House Majority Whip James Clyburn, D-S.C., said July 29.Clyburn spoke at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., to help launch the Commission to Engage African-Americans on Climate Change, a project of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies. The launch came on the heels of a separate report by the Environmental Justice and Climate Change Initiative (EJCC), which claims African-Americans are more vulnerable to the effects of climate change.It's time for civil rights activists to join with environmental activists to fight the most
dangerous challenge to our species: climate change. The two groups need each other. They have both had dramatic successes. Imagine the force they could create together.