Fighting for environmental justice is fighting for racial justice

In 2005, Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans. Governmental neglect left majority-black wards destitute. Seventy-three percent of those displaced by Katrina were black, and more than one-third of them were estimated to have been poor.

Although the hardest hit areas in New Orleans were low income communities and communities of color, white residents were favored over black residents in the rebuilding of New Orleans. The result: New Orleans lost close to 100,000 black residents who were unable to rebuild their homes. This catastrophe and unequal disbursement of resources is the direct impact of climate change.

Katrina is just one example of how structural inequality and institutional racism have everything to do with how communities of color are left to deal with the consequences of climate change.

“The U.S. has historically put very few resources in the hands of communities of color to help them rebuild after climate change-related disasters, but has found billions of dollars to prop up the fossil fuel industry in exploiting people and the planet.”

Moreover, the CEOs making big bucks off coal plants, waste facilities, pipelines and factories emitting even more CO2 into the air, are worsening our climate and heating the planet. Not to mention that this coal plants are more likely to be built in areas inhabited by low-income people of color, indigenous peoples and immigrants.

The environmental impacts in communities living close to such facilities are clear: Rates of asthma and cancer are high; water contamination is a norm and lead poisoning rates among children of color are astonishing, among many other health impacts. We saw this environmental racism play out just last year, when the Dakota Access Pipeline was re-routed from a majority white community in Bismarck, N.D., to the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, putting their water source at risk of contamination.

Now, as the Trump administration rolls back hard-won climate and environmental protections in favor of the fossil fuel industry, time is running out to slow climate change-related catastrophe, and vulnerable communities will continue to be the hardest hit.

It’s with this understanding of the pivotal moment we are in—one where Black and brown communities are mass criminalized; where immigrants and Muslims face a divisive anti-immigrant and Islamophobic agenda; where the sovereignty and rights of Indigenous peoples continue to be disrespected; where LGTBQI people face homophobic and transphobic assaults; where women are undermined and where the rights of all communities to a healthy and livable planet are disregarded—that we must stand up for each other with extreme urgency.

This is why 350.org has joined “The Majority,” a coalition of more than 50 organizations committed to the multi-racial, cross-movement fight for justice, freedom and the right to live fully, with dignity and respect. And this is why the Peoples Climate March on April 29, a full-scale mobilization to fight for climate, jobs and justice, with over 290 sister marches planned across the country, is part of the “Beyond the Moment” campaign.

Beyond the Moment: Uniting Movements from April 4 to May Day (BTM) is a call to action, a multi-tiered campaign intended to move masses of people nationally toward meaningful, trans-local actions designed to expand and strengthen multi-racial, multi-sector and local long-term organizing capacity to strengthen the fight for justice, freedom and the right to live fully, with dignity and respect for all people.

The Peoples Climate March fits precisely within this framework. On April 29, tens of thousands of people are gathering in Washington, D.C., from nearly all 50 states to put forward a vision of building bold solutions to protect communities and tackle climate change. The marchers, representing a broad spectrum of communities, will literally surround the White House to send a message to the Trump Administration that its right-wing agenda puts all of us, and our planet, in jeopardy in favor of shortsighted corporate interests. After, we will do the work of listening to each other’s solutions in order to make inspirational local change.

We know that neither the causes of climate change nor the solutions to the crisis exist in a bubble. To tackle this monumental challenge, we must do so with frontline communities at the center of the conversation, making decisions and creating solutions together. Only then can we truly build a just society that works for everyone. The Peoples Climate March is instrumental to this inclusive movement building that emphasizes economic, racial and social justice as key to bold and fearless solutions on climate.