Faith Organizing Alliance
Our mission is to increase civic participation through faith-based and civic organizations within the Las Vegas valley in order to advance a community and government that is more caring, just, and equitable.
By the end of 2015, our nation was pained by the news that residents of Flint, Michigan, had to endure drinking and bathing in water contaminated with lead, a potent neurotoxicant. Though this mostly Black community had been voicing concerns about the troubling quality of their drinking water for a long time, government officials kept insisting it was safe to consume.
Two years and numerous deferred complaints and organized protests later, it finally hit mainstream news that the residents of Flint have been drinking and bathing in water contaminated with lead levels several thousand times higher than the federal maximum, because local officials simply failed to use the legally mandated water treatments that would have kept them from being poisoned. As a result, all 9,000 children under six in Flint who have been exposed to the tainted water are at a high risk for neurological damage. The most recent data, as of March 2016, say the water still isn’t clean.
While the travesty in Flint isn’t connected to the climate crisis, it is a profound illustration of what happens to communities of color across the country. They’re more likely to have toxic facilities sited near them, less likely to receive adequate protection to prevent disasters, and less likely to get the kind of immediate response White communities get when emergencies occur, says Dr. Beverly Wright, a sociologist and CEO of the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice (DSCEJ) at Dillard University.
If you’re a person of color, particularly Black or Latino, you’re more likely to live near toxic facilities. — Dr. Beverly Wright, CEO of the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice at Dillard University
The poisoning of Flint is a familiar scenario for those working on environmental and climate justice issues. And as the effects of the climate crisis grow increasingly serious, they can turn deadly for people of color in ways that their White neighbors aren’t yet facing, says Dr. Wright.
“[Communities of color] are in double jeopardy” from the climate crisis,” she says. “First, if you’re a person of color, particularly Black or Latino, you’re more likely to live near toxic facilities, like petrochemical companies here in Louisiana, producing toxins that shorten and impact quality of life. And then, [our communities] are on the front line of impacts from climate change, living in places where there could be more floods and a higher incidence of different [climate-related] diseases. For poor communities, there’s also not having access to health insurance or medical services. Communities of color are disproportionately affected by all of these things.”
It’s way past that time to do something about it! That’s why it’s so important now to expand the conversation around climate justice — ensuring that all people, regardless of race and ethnicity, get equal protection from the worst effects of climate change.
While suffering disproportionately from the climate crisis, communities of color are also leading the way toward change that works for all.