Black Community And Climate Justice

Above Photo: Nurphoto.

“Humanity is in danger.” – Miriam Miranda, Garifuna leader

There is an easy correlation between the frequency and magnitude of climate-related disasters and the negative impact that has on human beings, especially on Black and Indigenous communities, who disproportionately due to accompanying social and economic-political disasters are usually at the forefront of these impacts due to many factors, including blatant political negligence.

In 2008, I lived in Atlanta, Georgia, and was the Director of Operations and Programs at the US Human Rights Network, when Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, we were one of the first organizations (not the only one) to make the connections between using a human rights framework and this specific climate disaster and the impact that it was and would have on the human beings that it touched. What was clear from applying a human rights framework, and continues to be clear to me, is that understanding that people, and communities, will continue to be impacted and will continue perpetuating internal displacement and migration by climate-related disasters, which will continue to increase due to many reasons (another future blog), and that these people and communities have non-negotiable human rights, they are indivisible and they are interdependent from each other, and that is, very importantly, legally binding- but that most governments ignore these obligations.

Fast forward to Hurricane Ida, which landed the same day as Hurricane Katrina (16 years after), but also landed during a global health pandemic (Covid-19), an economic crisis, and from my perspective a deathly silence from the media in the days after- that is not actively sharing the impact that l ack of electricity, nor drinking water, and rising heatwaves will have on an already economically marginalized Black community. The death tolls might be higher. I hope not.

Yesterday in the AfroResistance’s staff meeting, we spoke about the revival of traumas the impacts of flash floods and landslides on Black communities in Brazil because of the realities that many favelas face – geographically having to settle on sloped lands, the human cost of land loss in Colombia and Panama due to global warming, and then of course there is the impacts of race and climate right in communities like the Biloxi, New Orleans and the Bronx, where the impacts of climate are not only seen and felt in an unidirectional, but more on a multidimensional – it is felt in multiple systems, structures and humans are sacrificed along the way. Climate then means the difference between life and death for some communities.

This needs to be a larger reflection and a larger conversation from many angles. But some initial ideas and thoughts to ponder:

  • How will we convince ourselves, our families, our communities that racial justice and climate justice are one in the same and inseparable?
  • How will we center climate justice as a human rights issue? We are not hearing enough of this and thus not educating nor being educated enough on it. There is a void of information that is not getting out there, and our lives depend on it.
  • If climate justice is a racial justice, when will white people (including white latinx) step down and let Black and Indigenous people take the lead in large and well-financed organizations since they/we have the lived experiences and are actually being impacted and thus have the skills and the actual solutions?
  • And linked to above, how do we decolonize funding/ International “cooperation” so that organizations that are doing the work in the communities get to continue doing the work they are doing with resources at their hand? (without having to work several jobs, go without healthcare, etc.)
  • How do we talk about natural resources with a very clear racial justice and gender analysis and perspective when natural resources are in Black and Indigenous land and essence sustain humanity?
  • How will we see the correlations between geographic segregation, an interconnecting issue affecting access to resources and freedom for Black people in every country in the Americas, if something as basic as race education is not yet considered basic education?

As I mentioned in the beginning, this is an invitation to navigate conversations, important and life-changing discussions collectively. I do not have the answers, hence the reflections.