Undoubtedly, you have heard of climate change, but perhaps are not sure about this term climate justice. What does it mean and why is it relevant?
Simply put, the effects of pollution and climate change do not affect all citizens of the world equally. Think about it: where are the factories, toxic waste dumps, and refineries located in the world? Primarily in areas of poverty and near marginalized communities. And which groups are most affected by fracking, extraction of fossil fuels, and the destruction of forests? People of color, people living in poverty, and indigineous individuals. In fact, according to the Climate Reality Project, Black Americans breathe air with 38% more pollution than Whites and are exposed to 56% more pollution than they cause – while White Americans breathe 17% less pollution than they produce. And who usually wins NIMBY (not in my backyard) fights? Neighborhoods and cities with money who can afford to fight the legal battles that are necessary to stop that petrochemical facility, smelter, or dump.
Just the other day, there was a news article about the Formosa Plastic Group’s plan to build a $9.4 billion plastics manufacturing complex in Louisiana. The state’s governor and those in power support the massive plant, but community groups and environmental organizations say that the complex would pollute a predominantly Black community already overburdened with industrial toxins (see tinyurl.com/PlasticsFactory).
And when the water starts rising from global warming and people are devastated by hurricanes and tsunamis, who will be most impacted and have the least resources to build levies, seawalls, and relocate to higher ground? The poor and the marginalized. Seven of the top ten countries most threatened by and vulnerable to climate change are third-world countries. (see tinyurl.com/10NationsAtRisk).
Pope Francis, in Laudato Si, makes it crystal clear that we must not just fight against climate change, but also for climate justice for the least among us:
Today, however, we have to realize that a true ecological approach always becomes a social approach; it must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.
Working together, we can help take care of our common home.