Texas Legislative Black Caucus Chair, State Rep. Ron Reynolds.
Texas Legislative Black Caucus Chair, State Rep. Ron Reynolds.

While countless local, state and federal Republican lawmakers refute the existence of climate change, decades of scientific research strongly suggests it’s not only real, it’s deadly; especially to communities of color. And State Rep. Ron Reynolds, chair of the Texas Legislative Black Caucus wants members of the Black community to know that Earth Day and other environmental-focused initiatives deserve and demand our attention.

“This Earth Day, we must continue to fight for equitable policy changes that address the environmental and public health disparities in our communities,” said Reynolds. “We see that 71% of African Americans live in counties in violation of federal air pollution standards and experience 56% more pollution than our consumption generates. These inequities consequently have resulted in elevated rates of cancer, asthma, and other ailments.”

And Reynolds should know. He’s the only African American Texas legislator sitting on the state’s Environmental Regulation Committee.

“Robert D. Bullard, a fellow Texan and the ‘Father of Environmental Justice,’ defines environmental racism as ‘Any policy, practice or directive that differentially affects or disadvantages (where intended or unintended) individuals, groups or communities based on race.’ We must continue to center Black communities in our conversations today on environmental health and regulation,” Reynolds added.

Reynolds also shared some key statistics to highlight the importance of Earth Day and environmental justice for Black individuals, families and communities:

  1. Climate change disproportionately affects African Americans. According to Pew Research Center, 57% of Black people say that environmental issues are a big problem in their local area — more than any other racial or ethnic group.
  2. Black people are 75% more likely to live near oil and gas refineries. Exposure to dirty air can result in serious health conditions and death. Earth Day brings attention to how pollution can impact the health and wellness of Black folks.
  3. Black communities bear the brunt of environmental hazards. Earth Day helps bring awareness to environmental concerns that they face.

Bullard and Reynolds are not alone in seeking to raise awareness in the Black community of the importance of environmental justice and the current climate crisis facing the planet. Word in Black, a groundbreaking collaboration of 10 of the nation’s leading Black news publishers, has produced a series of articles on the subject, many of which were written by Word In Black’s Environmental Justice Reporter Maya Richard-Craven.

Check out their important work at www.WordInBlack.com.

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Aswad WalkerAssociate Editor

I'm originally from Cincinnati. I'm a husband and father to six children. I'm an associate pastor for the Shrine of Black Madonna (Houston). I am a lecturer (adjunct professor) in the University of Houston...