While climate change affects us all, the fight for climate justice acknowledges that is the most vulnerable communities that bear the brunt of the effects as highlighted in the NAACP blog on climate adaptation.
This is true in the US Gulf South – Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida- where communities that have dealt with generations of oppression are on the front-lines of the climate crisis. This region has historically been the sacrifice zone for the US. Time and again we are used and mistreated, putting us directly in the position to bear the weight of the negative effects of climate change.
It’s a common perception that Black southerners don’t care about climate change. Black people do not do polar bears. Tree-huggers we are not! The planet’s getting hotter? Hell, it’s always hot in the South. What’s the difference?
And while the impacts on polar bears and trees may be warning signs of climate change, climate justice is about the people and cultures that share this earth. Climate justice is about equity in the aftermath of hurricanes, justice for owners of eroding land, access to health care for workers and residents exposed to toxic products and process of the fossil fuel industry. Climate justice is about protecting the human right to clean water, clean air and healthy food. Climate justice is about protecting the everyday lives of all people. Black people- poor people- people of the Gulf south. Here’s what I mean.
An elderly Black man lives in Galveston, Texas with a physical disability, no car, and no homeowners insurance (because he can’t afford it since prices skyrocketed after Hurricane Ike hit). It’s hurricane season and there’s a big one heading for the Gulf. Climate change is about the frequency of more extreme storms. Climate justice is about the systems in place to keep you safe and help you recover.
A Black woman is living in Gulfport, Mississippi where her family has lived for almost 200 years. It took her family longer than most to amass enough wealth to establish a successful B&B. Climate change is about the issue of sea-level rise that now threatens this generational investment. Climate justice is about addressing the historical segregation of Black communities in low-lying areas when you have to be compensated for business or personal loss.