Tag Archive | climate justice

EJ Communities’ Urgent Need for Climate Action

mejc_logo_colorReposted from the Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition

*This letter was originally prepared for a meeting with EJ Public Advocate Regina Strong, and Dr. Brandy Brown, Climate and Energy Advisor to the Governor

Memo on Governor’s Climate Agenda: To Address the Urgent
Need for Environmental Justice, We Must be Climate READY

First, we want to recognize the moral significance of making time and space to meet directly with environmental justice communities and organizations on the urgent demands of the climate crisis.

Vulnerable communities, Black, Latinx, Arab, and Indigenous peoples have bore the brunt of contamination and degradation in Michigan for decades, if not centuries. As such, our expertise of the regulatory system, our traditional ecological knowledge, and our social networks are rich, exact in their capacities, and best suited to troubleshoot and resolve climate issues – whether the issues are ones that are emergent or ones tied to past abuses of the energy sector.
Additionally, organizations and Tribes led by leaders who live in their communities bear externalities and the highest risks of bad policy decisions. They also have the most to gain from positive results of good policy in physical and material ways. The rewards of positive policy decisions should seek to amend and resolve the historic disproportionality of toxicity and inaccessibility to food, water, land, healthy communities and cultural freedoms.
With this in mind, we believe there are several low hanging fruits for the Governor to move on that exemplify early stage crisis responses that are administratively sound. We summarize them in a community-useful acronym called Climate R.E.A.D.Y. that identifies our priorities and timeframe.

Readiness for the crisis
● Establish regular communication with frontline communities, especially those that are
multilingual and accessible for multi-abled people;
● Engage local hearings, townhall, and listening sessions on toxics, vulnerability, health, pollution, legacy sites, flooding, high heat and extreme cold;
● Meet regularly with EJ organizations and Tribal governments about climate, environmental impacts, and troubleshooting resilience strategies;
● Communicate with multi-platform channels through televised, print, and online sources.

Emergency-response protocols
● Establish cross-agency and cross-jurisdiction working groups that can quickly mobilize when there is a threat of exposure and/or contamination along with extreme weather contingency planning, funding, and execution;
● Troubleshoot and evaluate emergency situations and closure of regulatory loopholes;
● Disclose fully all materials, incidents and responsible parties, with fines and fees levied at the scale of the risk and directed toward clean up and harm reduction/mitigation;
● Deploy effective and timely risk communication to potentially impacted communities, with
adequate evacuation notification.

Assess past and foreseen harms
● Employ Cumulative Impact Assessments and Health Impact Assessment in decision-making;
● Assess climate risk in decision-making at the permit level, and certificate of necessity, IRP and other planning, including high lake levels, including life cycle analysis of all GHG emission sources (public and private);
● Establish a Climate Commission in which equity is central and where environmental justice communities have a majority in decision-making;
● Enact vulnerability criteria that are utilized in decision-making processes regarding emissions control, reduction, mitigation and adaptation strategies.

Development initiatives
● Aggregate financing, block grants, and special funds deployed for Just Transition within geographies directly impacted by pollution, flooding, food shocks, high heat, drought, extreme cold and persistent contamination AND particularly where there is no or inadequate access to healthcare, housing, food and clean water, and other resilience measures for public health and welfare;
● Direct public dollars to leverage the Just Transition of municipalities and workforce sectors impacted by fossil fuel regulatory statutes like facility closure;
● Target strategies for transitioning from a fossil fuel-based economy to a renewable economy within those same vulnerable geographies, including EV access, clean drinking water and sanitation infrastructure, organic food, waste reduction and elimination, community solar, energy, efficient retrofits, transmission renovation and distributed generation;
● Create a “Do business in Michigan” incentives program for Michigan-based companies to receive tax breaks or other incentives as they pursue/maximize using local production inputs and purchase products, minority-owned businesses, as locally as possible to reduce transportation emissions, which will also create Michigan jobs and economic benefits.
● Train those most under-represented in the clean energy workforce including but not limited to: returning citizens, veterans, Tribal members, DACA residents;
● Reject bailout promises that burden residential consumers with debt from stranded assets we foresee in the energy sector;
● Adopt strategies for EJ communities displaced by extreme weather events settling or unsettled in Michigan.

Year 2030
● Acknowledge that by all estimates the climate crisis is upon us in Michigan and there is no time to wait.
● Pursue aggressively 100% renewable energy by 2030. As the steward of 89% of the nation’s fresh surface water, Michigan must act.
● Reject the false solutions presented by the oil and gas industry, like carbon capture and storage, cap and trade, and nuclear energy, as being the only options to put millions of people to work, and save lives on a global scale.

With this Climate R.E.A.D.Y. program for Michigan, we believe the Governor’s Climate Agenda has the best opportunity for ecological and environmental justice success. MEJC is ready and able to help you meet this challenge and demonstrate our commitment to Michigan communities and the nation.

Thank you.

Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition

Food Policy for Food Justice: Food Justice & Climate Change

This is the sixth in a series of weekly posts highlighting OKT’s Food Justice series. You can download series handouts here for free.

5d1dce30fb378b552fdbf4cce77b91fdWild weather and unpredictable seasons are changing what farmers can grow and is making people hungry. Food prices are going up. Food quality is going down. Soon, climate change will affect what all of us can eat.

This opening statement from the international organization OXFAM introduces its investigation into the connection between Food Justice and Climate Justice. According to the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which is made up of thousands of the world’s leading climate scientists, our current food system is one of the main contributors to climate change.

Driven by increasing profits, the current food system contributes to climate change in the following ways:

1) Agribusiness practices mono-cropping, where large portions of land are devoted to growing one kind of crop. This kind of land usage not only increases the need for additional water, it degrades the quality of the soil and causes soil erosion.

2) Agribusiness completely depends on fossil fuels to grow and harvest food, thus contributing significantly to warming the planet. In addition, most food grown does not stay local. The average food item travels 1,000 miles before it is consumed, increasing the current food system’s dependence on fossil fuels even more.

3) The current food system promotes high levels of meat consumption, particularly in the US. Producing so much meat diverts large amounts of water, increases levels of methane gas and requires more land use to raise feed, resulting in deforestation and the release of more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. All of these factors further contribute to climate change.

4) The current food system produces highly processed foods that cause the many health problems we currently face. The energy and resources used to manufacture and distribute the high volume of unhealthy processed foods are also contributing to climate change.

While the world’s wealthier regions (specifically North America and Europe) are responsible for much of the current climate change crisis, its negative impacts
disproportionately impact regions of the world with higher levels of poverty. This is also true within the United States, where the communities most
negatively impacted by climate change are the same communities most
neglected by the current food system. This is why Our Kitchen Table
recognizes the relationship between food justice and climate justice. We
recognize that in order to have food justice, we need climate justice as well.

Here’s how you can practice climate justice alongside food justice:

  • Eat food grown locally.
  • Grow more of your own food.
  • Reduce or eliminate meat in your diet.
  • Reduce or eliminate processed foods in your diet.
  • Take action to build an alternative to the current food system.
  • Work for food sovereignty.
  • Join local, national and international efforts to promote food justice and climate justice.



You can learn more about climate change and food
justice in the zine, Organizing Cools the Planet, www.organizingcoolstheplanet.wordpress.com.


For information on OKT’s food justice resources and
campaigns, contact us at OKTable1@gmail.com  or
616-206-3641. Or, visit our website at www.oktjustice.org/.



Detroit’s William Copeland: From Climate Oppression to 21st-Century Leadership. What Will the New Black Economy Look Like?

HURRICANE KATRINA AFRICAN AMERICANI still remember the shock when Kanye West blurted “George Bush don’t like Black people” during the nationwide Red Cross fundraiser. Even more, images of Black people stranded, swimming, struggling on roofs are still branded onto my memory. I remember how our people were packed into the Superdome and labelled refugees. Churches and organizations as far away as Detroit opened up their doors for survivors.

Later, I heard stories of Black survivors being turned away from majority white Gulf towns. I learned later about previous flooding incidents, that many folks to this day think were intentional. Years later I found out how the Katrina super storm was influenced by human impact on weather patterns — “global warming” is not just higher temperatures but erratic extremes in a variety of climate conditions. Furthermore, unsustainable development along the gulf stripped away the natural buffer zones and made the storm’s damage much worse than it had to be.

Hurricane Katrina was the “perfect storm” for climate injustice: extreme weather patterns made worse by development and pollution. Climate injustice affects folks disproportionately based on socio-economic status and value within society. For Black folk in the United States, that usually means we face the blunt end. For working class and poor folks that don’t have the money to pay their way to safety, it’s the rough side of the blunt end.

Climate injustice is more than one-time events and calamities. The same development pressures that add greenhouse gases to our environment which cause chaotic weather patterns have stripped away protective wetlands and naturally occurring barriers. These economic trends and political rationales place polluting, dirty facilities too often in our neighborhoods.

“Environmental racism” is the term describing the fact that communities of color are disproportionately chosen as sites for toxic facilities — even considering income. This aggravates health conditions in our communities from allergies and asthma to cardiovascular disease and cancer.

Detroit does not fight climate change in the abstract. It’s a daily struggle because the oil refinery and trash incinerator are literally in our backyards. Climate injustice is not just a “one day it will happen” event; we feel it when we bury and mourn our sons and daughters. Detroit’s asthma deaths are three to five times higher than Michigan’s average.

The East Michigan Environmental Action Council (EMEAC) has joined with Climate Justice Alliance, a nationwide coalition that seeks to advance leadership of communities of color and other communities that have been historically dumped upon. Frontline communities such as Detroit have been located in the proximity of environmental pollution, industrial waste, toxic spills, explosions, and other harmful byproducts of the energy, waste, and production system we live under.

CJA’s Just Transition framework acknowledges that there are economic and political incentives beyond environmental racism that must be restructured. We must transition from being frontline communities and dumping grounds to leaders in this 21st century movement towards economic, environmental, and social justice. Each community will have to decide what institutions it will need to destroy, what must be transformed, and what should be built up in the future. From what I see in Detroit, our Just Transition must include:

  • Recognizing and Challenging Extreme Energy — Coal burning, trash incineration, oil refining is killing us in the short-term and harming the planet in the foreseeable future. Workers in these facilities, especially those from our communities- should be included in widespread planning for decentralized energy and reduced individual consumption.
  • Challenging Economic Exclusion — As communities we must fight the gentrification and destruction of our communities taking place nationwide. Let’s link with indigenous struggles against displacement and resource theft. Foreclosures represent a historic loss of our homes and community wealth. Katrina showed the vulnerability of our poor and working-class community. We must create collective care through institution building for quality of life.
  • De-Silo our Organizing — We can’t look at issues in isolation. We definitely can’t afford to think that some issues are more important than others. The anti-Blackness of this world uses myriad means and tactics against us. We must stay rooted in our vision, yet committed to syncretic thinking.
  • Healing our Culture — Our culture is a multi-billion dollar industry because it is powerful and it has the ability to change lives. Let’s reclaim our culture from being a profit extracting mechanism for others to being our channel for healing, expression, and institution building.
  • Reclaiming the Commons — Public infrastructure such as tap water, education, and roads has been built up with our collective investment. These systems should not be privatized, chartered, or sold off to corporate owners. The answer is more community responsiveness and accountability. The answer is NOT selling off to companies whose (only) concern is their return for shareholders.

In this land where our individual survival is not a given, we assert our highest self. We work towards collective well-being, respect for this planet that has birthed us, and our own ways of being full of dignity and self-awareness. No, we aren’t there yet but we are making this Transition with our arms wide open for our allies and our eyes wide open for any obstacles in our path.

This essay is dedicated to my friend David Blair, poet, activist, artist, and a local casualty of climate injustice who passed in the heat wave of 2011 when his home did not have air conditioning. This essay is also dedicated to Nicole Cannon, a water warrior who recently passed from health related conditions from her water being shut off at home. Her children are fundraising burial expenses here.

This post is part of the “Black Future Month” series produced by The Huffington Post and Black Lives Matter for Black History Month. Each day in February, this series will look at one of 28 different cultural and political issues affecting Black lives, from education to criminal-justice reform. To follow the conversation on Twitter, view #BlackFutureMonth — and to see all the posts as part of our Black History Month coverage, read here.