Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Dr. King and the Nexus Between Civil Rights and the Environment

Yesterday we celebrated the life of one of the greatest people ever to walk on American soil. Decades after his untimely murder, Martin Luther King continues to breathe life into a new civil rights movement. that includes the right to a healthy environment. Americans should claim their right to basic things like clean air and clean water.

The situation in Michigan where people do not have access to safe water reminds us that we still have a ways to go before we realize Dr. King's dream. As does the Republican's pernicious efforts to kill the clean power plan in support of dirty energy.  

Inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King, Green for All is an organization that believes that environmental issues are a civil rights issue. As reviewed in the Guardian, Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins, the chief executive officer of Green For All made the point that Hurricane Katrina highlighted the issues of injustice and inequality.

As he explained, "Climate change isn’t just an environmental issue; it’s about keeping our communities safe. It’s a matter of justice. Because when it comes to disasters — from extreme temperatures to storms like Katrina — people of color are consistently hit first and worst."

In 2013 Green for All marched in Washington DC with tens of thousands of people from across America to observe the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on the Nation's capitol. They marched against the recent attack on voting rights. They demanded justice in the face of Stand Your Ground laws and racial profiling. They marched to raise awareness on unemployment, poverty, gun violence, immigration, and gay rights. And they called for action on climate change.

As explained by Ellis-Lamkins, "African-Americans living in L.A. are more than twice as likely to die in a heat wave as other residents in the city." He also showed how people of color are more likely to suffer the ravages of pollution, citing the fact that 68 percent of African-Americans live within 30 miles of a toxic coal plant and one out of six black kids suffers from asthma, compared with one in 10 nationwide.

He said that efforts to combat climate change are part of Martin Luther King's famous 1963, "I have a dream" speech. "This is Dr. King’s dream reborn. And fighting climate change helps get us there" he said. "We need to respond to climate change today to ensure safe, healthy, prosperous lives for our kids tomorrow."

"The solutions to climate change won’t just make us safer and healthier — they are one of the best chances we’ve had in a long time to cultivate economic justice in our communities. Clean energy, green infrastructure, and sustainable industries are already creating jobs and opportunity," he said.

Creating employment and improving the environment are fundamental issues of human rights.

"That’s why we have to add climate change to our retooled list of what the civil rights movement stands for," Ellis-Lamkins said.

Related Articles
The UN Connects Human Rights and Climate Change
World Bank on Human Rights and Climate Change
What is Environmental Migration and Who are Climate Refugees
Climate Change Exacerbates Social Tensions and Causes Conflict
Sustainable Development Goals to Follow Millennium Development Goals

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