Climate action must include racial justice

The White House Council on Environmental Quality recently announced that it will not directly take race into account when applying environmental justice policies.

That’s problematic because achieving environmental justice is essential to sustaining the life, culture, and language of frontline communities. To disregard race when discussing environmental justice is to deny someone’s lived experience and reality.

We cannot address environmental racism without addressing race: Racial justice is environmental justice.

environmental Racism, declares author Robert Bullard, is “any policy, practice, or directive that differentially affects or harms (intentionally or unintentionally) individuals, groups, or communities on the basis of race.” This can occur when communities of color disproportionately experience environmental hazards like toxic waste facilities, garbage dumps, and the air pollutionresulting in detrimental health effects.

Environmental health injustices are also correlated with gender. TO study found that Latina, African-American, Asian, and Pacific Islander mothers were more than twice as likely as white mothers to live in the most air-polluted counties in the country. More than half of all textile workers are Asian women, and they are exposed to particulate matter, dyes, formaldehyde, and arsenic, leading to high rates of respiratory illness.

As an Asian-American educator, I have never seen myself represented in my own K-12 curriculum. Narratives about the environment also did not include my own lived experiences. This is unfortunate, especially since the immigrant and Asian-American communities have a history involvement in issues related to environmental justice and environmental health.

Since the 1990s, the Asia Pacific Environmental Network has organized and built power among Laotian refugees and Chinese immigrants in the California Bay Area. In Chicago, the fight for environmental justice involves urban gardening.

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Planting vegetables in backyard gardens gives Asian immigrant families in Chicago the ability to grow vegetables that are hard to find in Western markets. researchers at the University of Illinois indicated“Households of Chinese origin have a higher density [of gardening] than anywhere else in the city.” However, much of the soil is contaminated.

In Louisiana, the fight for historic and cultural preservation is a fight against climate change. St. Little bit, an ancient town along Lake Borgne in Louisiana’s St. Bernard Parish, was the first Filipino settlement in the United States. Louisiana has always been at the forefront of the climate crisis, and according to the US Geological Survey, the state lost about 25% of coastal land that existed in 1932. The Filipino-American community is tasked with preserving his legacy in the face of environmental damage.

According to the Yale Climate Change Communication Program, Americans overwhelmingly support Teach children about climate change. The Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education recently unanimously approved a comprehensive Climate Literacy program for all LAUSD schools. New Jersey also embraced climate change as part of the core curriculum in all public schools and Maine’s LD 1902 was inserted in 2021 and is now being considered by the legislature.

The White House clearly recognizes that communities of color are disproportionately affected by climate change. We cannot address environmental racism without addressing race: Racial justice is environmental justice.

Eliminating race as a factor threatens not only environmental justice efforts but also climate justice education. Every student deserves to have their lived experiences and realities included in the classroom.

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This column was produced for Progressive Perspectiveswhich is run by the progressive magazine, and distributed by Tribune News Service.

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Kimi Waite is a Civic Environmental Education Fellow of the American Association for Environmental Education. She is also a public voices fellow on the climate crisis with the OpEd Project and the Yale Climate Change Communication Program.

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March 2, 2022

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