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View Diary: Fighting for green: People of color and environmental justice (132 comments)

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  •  Environmentalism is *not* about white privilege (12+ / 0-)

    We're all in this together. Poor white people in Appalachia suffer just as much from damage to the environment as poor black people in DC. Exploitation of people and the environment knows no racial boundaries. Obviously, racism is a problem. Obviously, the counties of the rural south that have high percentages of blacks have higher infant mortality rates & other preventable health care problems. Obviously, this country was built on racism and continues to exploit racism.

    Poor people suffer the most from environmental exploitation be they Sioux in South Dakota, African Americans in Alabama or Scotts-Irish in Appalachia. Because they are poor they are the least able to fight for the environment. They are fighting to put meals on the table, fighting to stay healthy, fighting to survive.

    Recycling, investing in solar energy, saving the polar bears and driving a Prius, while all commendable, does not carry the same urgency if your house is located near a Brownfield or nuclear reactors. Moreover, much of the agenda of the modern day green movement, which has placed the well being of the environment over the well being of humans, has amounted to nothing more than a form of eco-imperialism. This is why many minority environmentalists have declined to join large environmental organizations and are instead fighting on the grassroots level for environmental justice.
    The large environmental organizations need to reach out to minority environmentalists to end this perception that environmentalism is a matter of white privilege. Environmental damage affects all of us. Moreover, investment in renewable energy is already creating thousands of blue collar jobs installing and maintaining solar systems. Solar power is labor intensive, not fuel intensive. Wind power creates a continuous harvest for rural communities. Renewable solutions are solutions to our economic problems as well as our environmental problems.

    Let's work together and move beyond labels and stereotypes.

    look for my eSci diary series Thursday evening.

    by FishOutofWater on Sun Jul 28, 2013 at 07:09:57 AM PDT

    •  yup. It shouldn't be and having (5+ / 0-)

      worked with Appalachian whites in coalition, and having family that lived with them in the hill country, I know that.  You do too.

      What do you suggest we do to change the practice and the perception?

      Join us on the Black Kos front porch to review news and views written from a black pov—everyone is welcome.

      by Denise Oliver Velez on Sun Jul 28, 2013 at 07:19:20 AM PDT

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      •  This post was excellent. Van Jones & solar power (6+ / 0-)

        Van showed how rooftop solar is a jobs program, an energy program and a fighting climate change program. National environmental organizations need to go local to get solar on rooftops in lower middle class communities where people own their own small homes but can't afford to install solar. They need to work with community colleges in communities of color to train more solar installation and maintenance techs. Of course, working class white folks need these jobs too.

        Once working class people see renewable energy as a jobs program the paradigm will shift.

        Likewise, good water, food and health are desperately needed by all poor and working class people. These are environmental issues that affect everyone.

        Look at China where half a billion people lost an average of 5 years off of their lives because of coal pollution of the air. No one was spared the effects of bad air.

        look for my eSci diary series Thursday evening.

        by FishOutofWater on Sun Jul 28, 2013 at 09:30:13 AM PDT

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        •  In an area where lots of solar panels (5+ / 0-)

          are going up (I have a roof-full, thanks to excellent incentives), my power company has only eight solar techs -- all in their fifties and nearing retirement, and no one coming up behind them.  

          Profound lack of foresight.

          Too bad there aren't any local programs here.  There are Latino communities, black communities, and the local reservation... all of whom could use training and employment.

          "Throwing a knuckleball for a strike is like throwing a butterfly with hiccups across the street into your neighbor's mailbox." -- Willie Stargell

          by Yasuragi on Sun Jul 28, 2013 at 10:04:15 AM PDT

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      •  Having worked on these issues for a while (3+ / 0-)

        I think you have diagnosed a lot of the issue here.  It isn't so much a difference in where people's concerns are as a difference in how people frame the issues and think about what to label what it is they do. We haven't learned how to speak each others languages has been an issue for a long time and I see that there is finally great progress being made.  

        I myself sit on the board on a nonprofit that does environemntal education in k-12 schools in poor and minority communities to help create another generation of leaders who I think will turn out to be more bilingual. I am hopeful

        Touch all that arises with a spirit of compassion. An activist seeks to change opinion.

        by Mindful Nature on Sun Jul 28, 2013 at 10:16:24 AM PDT

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        •  I wish you would talk about the (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Yasuragi, Eric Nelson

          curricula a bit.  It is so important that young people get a "head start" on the environment.

          Join us on the Black Kos front porch to review news and views written from a black pov—everyone is welcome.

          by Denise Oliver Velez on Sun Jul 28, 2013 at 10:25:02 AM PDT

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          •  That is the thought (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Denise Oliver Velez

            It is primarily a service-learning approach, which is where students works on project that respond to a community need an then use that experience to develop their understanding of scientific, political and social issues.  For example, students develop tools for civic engagemt to identify needs and make the projects happen and them also study the scientific parts of how one best deals with recycling or open space restoration or air pollution.

            Touch all that arises with a spirit of compassion. An activist seeks to change opinion.

            by Mindful Nature on Sun Jul 28, 2013 at 11:20:35 AM PDT

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    •  if you look at Nigeria or some African countries (6+ / 0-)

      it feels like it IS a white corporate privilege issue. I agree with you thinking within the borders of the US, but not internationally.

      "Im Land der Schatten ist die Wahrheit eine Lüge"

      by mimi on Sun Jul 28, 2013 at 07:36:03 AM PDT

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      •  In the nation of India, traditional people (6+ / 0-)

        are being displaced for a highly destructive mining project that will destroy unique virgin land. This project involves very few people we would traditionally call white. Powerful corporations abuse the land and people of all kinds for profit.

        Of course, there's an element of white privilege that lives on in colonialist corporations like DeBeers, but human and environmental exploitation is a much more encompassing problem than that. It's even bigger than the problems with capitalism.

        Racial divisions are used by the powerful to divide, rule and exploit.

        look for my eSci diary series Thursday evening.

        by FishOutofWater on Sun Jul 28, 2013 at 07:50:09 AM PDT

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      •  I was looking for a place to post this comment, (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Denise Oliver Velez

        looks like this is as appropriate as any I'll find.

        This reminded me of Bill McKibben's terrific sermon at the Riverside Church of NYC called "God's Taunt".  It's about 22 minutes long and one of my favorite parts is where he addresses (to great cheers, I'd add) the (mostly-American(?)) stereotype you and others have discussed.

        It’s been an education for me—for years I’d always heard that environmentalists were rich white people who’d taken care of their other problems. But this turns out to be untrue. Rich white people are incredibly resistant; most of the people we work with are poor, black, brown, Asian and young, because that’s what the world mostly consists of. It turns out they’re just as concerned about the future as anyone else, and perhaps more so, since the future bears down very hard on you if you’re poor right now. What this means, in the end, is that we’re called not to charity, or maybe even to justice—the scale of injustice is so enormous it’s hard to imagine ever rectifying it. What we’re called to is something even more basic: solidarity.

        "Push the button, Max!" Jack Lemmon as Professor Fate, The Great Race

        by bartcopfan on Mon Jul 29, 2013 at 09:34:30 AM PDT

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    •  I thought (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Denise Oliver Velez

      That was a particularly telling comment.  The people I work with are too busy fixing problems to be throwing around accusations of "Eco-imperialism" around and frankly aren't the kind of educated elite who would use such words.  If fact, the failure to prioritize the environment over people's "needs" is precisely the kind of thinking that has produced the environmental problems in the first place, including the brownfield next door, which happened in part because proper environmental controls were "too expensive" and only insisted upon by "treehuggers" who don't understand people's (here the polluter's) "needs".  We have heard this countless times before.   You can't fix problems with the same kind of thinking that create them in the first place.   By leveling such accusations, folks like the commenter seek to divide people and are a pretty good example of the problems we face

      Touch all that arises with a spirit of compassion. An activist seeks to change opinion.

      by Mindful Nature on Sun Jul 28, 2013 at 12:33:34 PM PDT

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