Jane Goodall on Conservation, Climate Change and COVID-19: 'If We Carry on With Business as Usual, We're Going to Destroy Ourselves'
By Jeff Berardelli
While COVID-19 and protests for racial justice command the world's collective attention, ecological destruction, species extinction and climate change continue unabated. While the world's been focused on other crises, an alarming study was released warning that species extinction is now progressing so fast that the consequences of "biological annihilation" may soon be "unimaginable."
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For all its posturing on climate change, the Democratic Party has long been weak on the actual policies we need to save us from extinction. President Barack Obama promised his presidency would mark "the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow," and then embraced natural gas, a major driver of global temperature rise, as a "bridge fuel." Climate legislation passed in the House in 2009 would have allowed industries to buy credits to pollute, a practice known to concentrate toxic air in black and brown neighborhoods while doing little to cut emissions.
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
To hear many journalists tell it, the spring of 2020 has brought a series of extraordinary revelations. Look at what the nation has learned: That our health-care system was not remotely up to the challenge of a deadly pandemic. That our economic safety net was largely nonexistent. That our vulnerability to disease and death was directly tied to our race and where we live. That our political leadership sowed misinformation that left people dead. That systemic racism and the killing of Black people by police is undiminished, despite decades of protest and so many Black lives lost.
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By Brett Walton
Use of Colorado River water in the three states of the river's lower basin fell to a 33-year low in 2019, amid growing awareness of the precarity of the region's water supply in a drying and warming climate.
Raising Lake Mead<p>Just five years ago, in 2015, the three states were making use of their entire 7.5-million-acre-foot allotment. By statute and tradition, the basin is divided into a lower basin, where use is higher, and an upper basin, which includes Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming. The basins have different water allocation systems and rules governing its use.</p><p>In the lower basin, Arizona's annual allocation is 2.8 million acre-feet, but last year it used just 2.5 million. Nevada used 233,000 of its 300,000 acre-feet. The big savings were in California, which used only 3.8 million of its 4.4 million acre-feet. California hasn't used that little water from the Colorado since the 1950s, Fleck said.</p><p>The drop in California last year is due in large part to Metropolitan Water District, which consumed only 537,000 acre-feet. Five years ago, the district's tally was around 1 million acre-feet per year. Urban conservation and development of local water sources have played a large role in the decline, but the district's Colorado River water use is also influenced by snow levels in the Sierra Nevada mountains. When more water is available to be imported from the northern part of the state, as it was last year, the district leans less heavily on the Colorado River.</p>
Total Lower Colorado Basin Consumptive Use<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzQxMTU1OS9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0MzM0NDYxM30.RVr3Rzi1jqZHweILfonMU8SWs_LGJBGqg9lMiQ-jrVY/img.png?width=980" id="d31ab" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="15ef390e64a1be66991bfd26b0f0fee5" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
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By Kristoffer Tigue
In many ways, Maleta Kimmons defines her neighborhood by what it lacks.
Several houses near her home remain vacant. Last week, she had to drive seven miles just to buy groceries. And two weeks ago, at the height of the Minneapolis protests sparked by the killing of George Floyd by a police officer on May 25, looters broke into the only pharmacy in the area, forcing the store to close and leaving many in the neighborhood without easy access to life-saving medication like insulin or inhalers for asthma.
St. John the Baptist Parish, Louisiana: "We've Already Been Written Off"<p>Reserve, Louisiana, had an agrarian economy when Robert Taylor was born. His parents worked at a local sugar refinery. "I'm a lifelong resident," he said. "I was born here in 1940, so I've seen some changes." When he was a boy, he said, "I could just walk out my house and go out my backyard and I was in a sugarcane field."</p><p>By the time he was a young man, the petrochemical industry was moving in. He bought a plot of land on the edge of town and built a home, finished by the time his fourth child was born, he said. "I went and got my wife from the hospital and brought her with our child to our new home."</p><p>Around the same time, he said, DuPont began operating a new chemical plant less than a thousand yards from the home.</p><p>St. John the Baptist Parish, which includes Reserve, lies within Louisiana's "Cancer Alley," a stretch along the Mississippi River between Baton Rouge and New Orleans that is cluttered with petrochemical development and the pollution it brings. The Environmental Protection Agency's National Air Toxics Assessment, which uses emissions estimates to model health risks, estimates that the risk of developing cancer in Reserve is 50 times the national average, and that the <a href="https://www.epa.gov/la/laplace-louisiana-frequent-questions#highest-risks" target="_blank">five census tracts with the highest risk</a> are all in the area.</p><p>But as Taylor watched the development spring up around him, he didn't know any of that. All he knew was that a lot of people seemed to be getting sick. Several family members have died of cancer, he said, while his wife is a cancer survivor. It wasn't until four years ago that Taylor began to connect what he saw with the industry that had developed around him.</p><p>"I came home one night and my wife was so sick, and the odor was so horrible coming from the plant, that I called 911," he said. "And the emergency personnel, they were taken aback by the odor. Of course, all of them was white, none of them lived in the community I lived in," he said. Almost two-thirds of Reserve's residents are black.</p><p>It never occurred to him that other parts of the parish didn't have it as bad. And soon after that incident, the EPA arrived and began monitoring for a chemical, chloroprene, that is used in the nearby plant and is considered by the agency to be a "likely carcinogen."</p><p>"I got the first results of the monitoring, it scared the heck out of me," he said. When the EPA found high levels of the chemical in the air near a school, "that's really what sparked the people to join me and we formed this Concerned Citizens of St. John."</p><p><a href="https://www.ccosj.com/" target="_blank">His group</a> has been trying ever since to get Denka Corporation, which bought the plant from DuPont in 2015, to limit emissions. Denka did not reply to requests for comment from InsideClimate News, but a <a href="http://denka-pe.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/DENKAFAQ.pdf" target="_blank">company website</a> says it has voluntarily reduced emissions and that "there is no evidence to suggest Denka's operations are harmful to local residents."</p><p>Taylor's wife now lives in California, to be away from the pollution. Some of his children have moved out of the parish, too. His great-granddaughter was born recently nearby, "and she has no future here," he said. </p><p>But he feels trapped with his home. Beyond the low value of the property, Taylor said, he wouldn't feel right selling to another family, only to have them live with the same burden.</p><p>"We've already been written off. We're walking dead people," he said. "We've been sacrificed."</p>
Bears Ears National Monument, Utah: Trump Ended Tribal Governance<p>Alfred Lomahquahu helped build the five-tribe <a href="https://bearsearscoalition.org/" target="_blank">coalition</a> that proposed the Bears Ears National Monument in southeastern Utah.</p><p>The land might seem remote, but the struggle against racial and environmental injustice has been no different for the indigenous people of the Southwest than for those protesting on the streets of the world's cities.</p><p>"People are actually getting united," said Lomahquahu, a Hopi. "That's the main thing that the government is afraid of, that's why they don't want these protests going on."</p><p>The coalition's work focused on protecting red rock canyons and pinion-dotted desert containing hundreds of thousands of archaeological sites and areas of deep cultural significance to the Hopi Nation, Zuni Tribe, Navajo Nation, Ute Indian Tribe and Ute Mountain Utes.</p><p>"We started speaking with Obama on a one-to-one, government-to-government basis," said Lomahquahu, now community administrator in the Hopi village of Baqavi in northern Arizona. "Part of our strategy was that we were going to work side by side with [the U.S. Bureau of Land Management] and all these other government entities as part of the planning for the whole monument."</p><p>The Obama administration embraced the idea, establishing and empowering a Bears Ears Commission when it <a href="https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/2016/12/28/proclamation-establishment-bears-ears-national-monument" target="_blank">created</a> the monument. Lomahquahu was the commission's co-chair until it was abolished when the Trump administration <a href="https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/presidential-proclamation-modifying-bears-ears-national-monument/" target="_blank">downsized</a> the monument by 85 percent not quite a year later.</p><p>Trump administration officials rebuffed commissioners and other monument supporters, he said. "But we already knew at that point that everything that we achieved was going to go down the drain—and for every other minority too."</p><p>Yet, the experience also showed the tribes, which have historically been at odds with one another, the power of working together, he added. And, later, conservation groups, professional societies, recreation groups and even large companies like Patagonia joined the tribes' campaign to protect the land from mining and pollution.</p><p>"Some people are going to use their privilege in order to help others that aren't privileged," Lomahquhu said. "I think that's something that you really need to look at now ... Some people are privileged more than others and willing to use that privilege to help everyone get back on their feet."</p><p>New uranium mining, coal-fired power and oil and gas development in the region are other threats that the Four Corners region has faced. More recently, Indian Country communities have united against Covid-19.</p><p>"We're just waiting for Trump to leave office," Lomahquhu said, "so we can get back in there and regroup again and bring all entities back together."</p>
The Rockaways, Queens, N.Y.: Young Leaders of Color Building Resilient Communities<p>Milan Taylor was 21 when he founded the <a href="https://rytf.org/" target="_blank">Rockaway Youth Task Force</a> in 2011, to sponsor community clean-ups and encourage voter registration in this outlying neighborhood on a barrier island in Queens.</p><p>A year later, after Hurricane Sandy left homes four- to 10-feet underwater and knocked out power for days, Taylor found himself helping to lead rescue and relief efforts in a neighborhood that was 60 percent African American and Hispanic and the poverty line was 20 percent higher than the state average.</p><p>He mobilized hundreds of volunteers in a <a href="https://www.huffpost.com/entry/hurricane-sandy-far-rockaway_b_2109224?guccounter=1" target="_blank">widespread effort</a> to assess the needs and deliver food and medications to hundreds of home-bound community members, including elderly and disabled residents. As they meticulously canvassed high-rise apartment buildings, the major relief organizations and the NYPD seemed strangely missing in action.</p><p>"Sandy gave us the exposure that [the Rockaway Youth Task Force] needed to grow," said Taylor, now 31 and the group's executive director.</p><p>And a good thing that is, with climate scientists predicting sea level rise of at least a foot by 2050, which will make the Rockaways more prone to climate change-fueled flooding and storm surges than they already are. </p><p>"What we're trying to accomplish as an organization is to build more resilient communities," Taylor said, "We want to be there, whether it's a disaster brought about by climate change or even human disasters"—a reference to the ongoing protests for racial justice and an end to police violence. </p><p>Taylor said that it is important for the task force, made up largely of young people of color, to be "led by our own constituency, meaning that those who are directly impacted decide which direction and which campaigns we take on as an organization." </p><p>Despite being told after Sandy that his organization couldn't grow, he said, "We're still here ... still doing work, still helping our communities, and still training the next generation of leaders."</p><p>He noted that one former RYTF organizer, Khaleel Anderson, is now <a href="https://khaleel4thepeople.com/" target="_blank">running</a> for the New York State Assembly. </p><p>In the future, Taylor said, he hopes the broader climate movement embraces his work with the task force, which recognizes how race, gender and socioeconomic factors contribute to environmental injustice. "The conversation of Black lives mattering isn't just limited to police violence," Taylor said. "It also extends to climate justice." </p>
Los Angeles: Latino Children in Boyle Heights Play in Lead-Contaminated Soil<p>Idalmis Vaquero sees such joy in the exuberance of a neighborhood boy named R.J.</p><p>The six-year-old runs to her to show off his newest feat—a backflip—on the dusty patch of grass outside of their aging apartment complex owned by the Los Angeles Housing Authority. </p><p>Yet there is a dark contradiction between the glee of this boy and the reality of life in the shadow of a lead recycling plant that has poisoned the ground that dirties R.J.'s bare feet.</p><p>The boy, like so many other children and families living in this neighborhood, is exposed every day to the high concentrations of lead that have contaminated this mostly Latino community just southeast of downtown Los Angeles.</p><p>The Exide Technologies recycling plant and its predecessors emitted lead, arsenic and other dangerous pollutants, leaving homes, apartments, schools, parks and day care centers with dangerously high levels of lead contaminated soil.</p><p>Vaquero, 26, a third-year student at the University of California, Los Angeles School of Law, grew up in public housing in the Boyle Heights neighborhood, where she still lives and where her parents settled after emigrating from Mexico nearly 30 years ago.</p><p>There has been little change in her neighborhood since she was a child. Factories, smoke stacks and exhaust-belching diesel trucks define the community more than grassy parks and welcoming recreation centers.</p><p>So she worries about the future of R.J. and other children.</p><p>"Living here will have an impact on the quality of life for the rest of their lives," she said. "It makes me mad that our lives are not considered equal when it comes to addressing environmental hardships."</p><p>As many as 250,000 residents, mostly working-class Latinos, face a chronic health hazard from exposure to airborne lead and arsenic that subsequently settled into the soil from the recycling plant, according to <a href="http://www.aqmd.gov/docs/default-source/exide/exideab2588hra15jan13_15may13_cor.pdf?sfvrsn=2" target="_blank">a 2013 health risk assessment by the South Coast Air Quality Management District</a>.</p><p>Lead contamination has been found in children growing up in neighborhoods surrounding the now-shuttered Exide battery plant, <a href="https://news.usc.edu/156523/lead-in-baby-teeth-exide-battery-plant/" target="_blank">a USC study found</a>. Lead is a neurotoxin, and there is no level that is considered safe in humans.</p><p>The 15-acre recycling facility operated in the industrial city of Vernon for decades with minimal regulatory oversight. It churned out poisonous pollution around the clock seven days a week as the lead from 25,000 old car batteries was melted down every day for use in producing new batteries.</p><p>The facility received more than 100 environmental violations for such things as lead and acid leaks and maintaining an overflowing pond of toxic sludge.</p><p>The Exide plant was shut down in 2015 by the U.S. Department of Justice, which also ordered the company to pay $50 million to clean up the site and nearby neighborhoods. The state later pledged $75 million for the ongoing cleanup, which is being overseen by the <a href="https://dtsc.ca.gov/exide-home/" target="_blank">California Department of Toxic Substances Control</a>.</p><p>The cleanup has been painfully slow, which Vaquero takes as yet another signal that her neighborhood and neighbors are just a forgotten footnote in a city defined by the glitz of Hollywood and Beverly Hills. </p><p>Vaquero majored in environmental studies at Wellesley College in Massachusetts, where she made the decision to stand up for her community and others like hers.</p><p>She described <a href="https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/6945854-Vaquero-Paper-Fighting-for-Environmental-Health.html" target="_blank"> the environmental injustices in her community in a 2016 thesis</a>: </p><p>"The health of these communities need to be prioritized and protected from any more pollution from Exide and other environmental injustices," she wrote. "The community's power and resilience will prevail and environmental justice will be served to Southeast Los Angeles."</p>
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By Rachel Ramirez
"I can't breathe." These were among the final words that George Floyd and Eric Garner gasped before their deaths at the hands of white police officers. That plea has become part of the current rallying cry for racial justice and an end to police brutality in the U.S. But for black people living near industrial facilities, the phrase has an additional layer of meaning: a reminder of their disproportionate pollution burden.
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By Kimberly White
Ethiopia has set out to plant 5 billion tree seedlings this year. The planting is part of the country's larger reforestation initiative spearheaded by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.
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By Jeff Berardelli
In recent weeks, our nation has been forced to come to grips with the variety of ways in which inequality harms minority communities, from the death of George Floyd at the hands of police to the disproportionate impact of COVID-19. A recent Harvard study concluded that air pollution — which is typically worse in areas with larger minority populations — is linked to higher coronavirus death rates, along with a slew of other health problems.
By Rachel Ramirez
Adán Vez Lira, a prominent defender of an ecological reserve in Mexico, was shot while riding his motorcycle in April. Four years earlier, the renowned activist Berta Cáceres was shot dead in her home in Honduras by assailants taking direction from executives responsible for a dam she had opposed. Four years before that, Cambodian forest and land activist Chut Wutty was killed during a brawl with the country's military police while investigating illegal logging.
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By Nina Lakhani
Living near active oil and gas wells during pregnancy increases the risk of low-birthweight babies, especially in rural areas, according to the largest study of its kind.
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By Emily Dao
We constantly hear the narrative that climate change impacts us all. And while that's true, the issue is disproportionately impacting people of color, especially Black, Latino, and Native Americans. And when it comes to environmental justice, we just aren't talking about social equity enough.
Flint Serves as One of the Most Popular Instances of Denied Environmental Justice.<p>Perhaps your first time being exposed to environmental racism was when you learned about Flint, Michigan. In fact, University of Michigan researcher Paul Mohai called it "the most egregious example of environmental injustice in recent U.S. history."</p><p>When residents complained about contaminated water supply, state officials quickly and publicly dismissed citizens' claims. Residents almost immediately noticed a change in their water supply back in April 2014. Flint is a city of nearly 100,000 people. But, the state waited over a year to address the issue, finally doing so in October 2015…a full eighteen months.</p><p>Let's look at some numbers. Black Americans made up <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/22/us/a-question-of-environmental-racism-in-flint.html" target="_blank">only 14% of Michigan</a>. However, the most heavily polluted zip code in Michigan is 84% Black. For Flint and their Republican-controlled state government, <em>NYT </em>report John Eligon said it meant the city had "little political power."</p><p>A state report by the Michigan Civil Rights Commission verified that racism was a contributing factor in the water crisis. Government inaction led to a major Legionnaire's outbreak from the poisoned water. This disease is a severe form of bacterial pneumonia. Michigan reported at least 90 citizens were sickened and 12 died. However, a PBS FRONTLINE investigation found that <a href="https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/interactive/how-we-found-dozens-of-uncounted-deaths-during-flint-water-crisis/" target="_blank">115 people actually died</a> in Flint.</p><p>In January, over 30,000 Flint residents have filed lawsuits against city and state regulators for reparations. But, <a href="http://unclear%20if%20anyone%20will%20ever%20face%20trial%20for%20the%20flint%20water%20crisis./" target="_blank">NPR says</a> it's "unclear" if anyone will ever face trial for this injustice.</p><p>"The people in Flint, in terms of justice, holding people accountable and compensation…we are batting zero," Flint resident Claire McClinton told NPR.</p><p>So, it's no surprise that people often refer to Flint when it comes to environmental racism.</p>
Lacking Social Equity: Underserved Communities Experience More Exposure to Dangerous Air.<p>Overwhelmingly, <a href="https://therising.co/2020/05/28/environmental-racism-covid-19/" target="_blank">Latino and Black Americans</a> live closer to toxic waste facilities, coal plants, or other areas not compliant with federal air pollution regulations. These instances, in turn, are associated with significant respiratory problems among these marginalized groups.</p><p>An analysis in California from the <a href="https://www.ucsusa.org/resources/inequitable-exposure-air-pollution-vehicles-california-2019" target="_blank">Union of Concerned Scientists</a> affirmed this idea. In the study, they found that U.S., Black, Latino, Asian, and low-income communities suffered the most from poor air quality — and impacted Black Americans the most.</p><p>They experience 43% more exposure to PM2.5 pollution than White Californians. (Fine particulates from PM2.5 pollution are smaller in width than human air and form from diesel exhaust, smokestacks, construction projects, etc. Exposure to PM2.5 pollution is actually the <a href="https://undark.org/breathtaking/" target="_blank">6th leading cause of death</a> in the world.) And you'd think that more would be done to fix this as a respiratory virus, COVID-19 ravaged the world. Instead, the EPA <a href="https://therising.co/2020/05/15/nine-states-suing-the-epa-covid-19/" target="_blank">stopped enforcing air pollution rules</a> during the virus. This, among other reasons, explains why people of color are at <a href="https://therising.co/2020/05/28/environmental-racism-covid-19/" target="_blank">higher risk</a> of contracting COVID-19.</p><p>Tragically, those hit hardest by pollution contribute the least. The same study found that California households without a personal vehicle were actually exposed to higher levels of air pollution. This is because these households are usually in urban areas, which are typically surrounded by heavy traffic.</p><p>Those living in low-income households already are at <a href="https://www.healthypeople.gov/2020/topics-objectives/topic/social-determinants-health/interventions-resources/poverty#:~:text=Residents%20of%20impoverished%20neighborhoods%20or,mortality%2C%20and%20lower%20life%20expectancy.&text=Some%20population%20groups%20living%20in,adverse%20health%20outcomes%20than%20others." target="_blank">increased risk</a> of a lower life expectancy. They're also more likely to contract chronic conditions like heart disease and diabetes. So, for poor communities, living near polluting facilities only makes them more vulnerable to dangerous health effects.</p>
Low-Income Households, People of Color Are Left in the Dark.<p>The transition to renewable energy revealed a lack of equity for the poor and people of color. (Minority groups often overrepresent impoverished neighborhoods. A study by the U.S. <a href="https://aspe.hhs.gov/report/overview-community-characteristics-areas-concentrated-poverty/racial-and-ethnic-minorities-are-overrepresented-concentrated-poverty-population-and-concentrated-poor-communities-metropolitan" target="_blank">Department of Health and Human Services</a> found that 40% of Americans living in poverty are black. Take in mind, Black Americans make up less than 20% of the U.S. population).</p><p><a href="https://therising.co/2020/04/15/energy-infrastructure-is-hurting-underserved-communities-most/" target="_blank">840 million people in the world</a> still suffering from energy poverty. Overwhelmingly in the U.S., those struggling to pay for rising energy costs tend to be low-income Black and Latino Americans.</p><p>Given that many underserved communities don't even have reliable power, it makes sense that they're also less likely to have access to clean or energy-efficient technologies.</p>
Time and Time Again, Research Reveals Inequity in Clean Energy.<p>University of Michigan Professor, <a href="https://e360.yale.edu/features/why-low-income-households-need-to-be-part-of-the-clean-energy-revolution" target="_blank">Tony Reames</a> found financial inequity in clean energy. His study revealed that upgrading to energy-efficient lightbulbs cost twice the amount in low-income neighborhoods compared to more affluent areas. And, for every dollar, Michigan spent on energy efficiency programs for low-income customers? The state spent $4.34 on high-income customers.</p><p><span></span>Additionally, in New Orleans,<em> Grist</em> reported that 20% of residents' income <a href="https://therising.co/2020/04/15/energy-infrastructure-is-hurting-underserved-communities-most/" target="_blank">went to their energy bills</a>. It's no wonder that the city, which has one of the nation's highest poverty rates, is also one of the least energy-efficient in the U.S.</p><p>And unfortunately, extreme rising temperatures due to climate change will only continue threatening power grids. This will result in heightened cases of blackouts. California's series of wildfires last year also hurt low-income households the most.</p><p>Last year, the <a href="https://www.sfchronicle.com/california-wildfires/article/Power-outages-hit-some-of-state-s-poorest-14804853.php" target="_blank">California Department of Social Services</a> reported that almost 51,000 households relying on food assistance lived in areas heavily impacted by planned outages to mitigate wildfires. For some, blackouts can definitely be an inconvenience. But, they can be devastating — and even deadly — to the poor and elderly.</p>
Natural Disasters Disproportionately Impact Poorer Communities.<p>Natural disasters caused <a href="https://therising.co/2020/01/07/natural-disasters-damages-2019/" target="_blank">over $80 billion in damages</a> in 2019. While disasters don't discriminate which areas they affect, recovery is much harder for the poor.</p><p>In times of despair, people tend to rally together. However, there's not an even dispersion of aid and attention. <em><a href="https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2019/01/why-natural-disasters-are-worse-poor/580846/" target="_blank">The Atlantic</a></em> pointed out that private and public aid often "accrue to the haves more so than the have nots."</p><p>Brad Kieserman, VP of Disaster Logistics and Operations at the American Red Cross, discussed this after the Camp Fire wildfire.</p><p>"Disasters, for most communities, exacerbate already existing issues, which is why we often see in shelters what we sometimes refer to as the least, the last, and the lost'," he told the Atlantic. "The people who had the least, who were the last to get services, who were already at the end, who were lost beforehand, especially financially."</p>
Environmental Justice a Big Challenge for the Native American Community.<p>According to <em><a href="https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/natural-disasters-by-location-rich-leave-and-poor-get-poorer/" target="_blank">The Conversation</a></em>, 90 years of data show poverty rates climbing by 1% after natural disasters, impacting the poor most. For them, resiliency after devastations might not be possible.</p><p>"Our research suggests that the rich may have the resources to move away from areas facing natural disasters, leaving behind a population that is disproportionately poor," it wrote.</p><p>Then, when applying for recovery aid, <a href="https://publicintegrity.org/environment/one-disaster-away/when-disaster-strikes-indigenous-communities-receive-unequal-recovery-aid/" target="_blank">Native Americans struggle most</a>. Extreme heat and droughts harm plants and wildlife. They also create higher risks of wildfires and habitat loss. Since Native Americans depend heavily on natural resources, plants, and animals, it makes them <a href="https://www.yaleclimateconnections.org/2012/06/native-americans-and-a-changing-climate/" target="_blank">vulnerable to climate change</a>.</p><p>Yet, the National Congress of American Indians revealed that tribal citizens only received $3 on average for recovery efforts. Conversely, U.S. citizens received $26. Nelson Andrews Jr., Emergency Management Director for Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe discussed this with High Country News.</p><p>"It's basically like you're [Congress] setting us up to fail," he said.</p>
The Importance of Your Vote in Achieving Environmental Justice.<p>After the <a href="https://therising.co/2019/08/25/bernie-sanders-green-new-deal-is-the-most-ambitious-climate-change-stance-of-the-2020-race/" target="_blank">Green New Deal</a> was introduced back in 2019, AOC's sweeping proposal helped put climate policy on the map. One reason this outline got so much traction was that it heavily confronted social issues. This emphasis on social justice proved its important role in the climate narrative.</p><p>Although the Green New Deal did receive significant backlash over its feasibility, it did reinforce the idea that social justice and climate cannot exist as separate battles. In order for us to make significant progress in the fight against climate change, <a href="https://therising.co/2020/05/17/earthx-sustainability-event-trammell-crow/" target="_blank">everyone must reap the benefits</a> of a cleaner world.</p><p>The environment is the <a href="https://therising.co/2020/02/27/swing-voters-environment-presidential-election/" target="_blank">third most important issue</a> in swing states. However, just focusing on the environment is not enough. When creating these solutions, poor, vulnerable communities must also be taken into consideration. We must demand environmental justice to enact real change. </p><p>Now more than ever is the time to use your voice, get loud, and stand up for what you believe is right. Now is the time to vote for our future.</p>
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