Climate Injustice in Systemic Racism

This past Monday, the Marblehead Racial Justice Team (MRJT) held a conversation in which Rev. Clyde Elledge discussed how historical climate injustice contributes to systemic racism.

“It was an enlightening presentation to learn the myriad ways climate change disproportionately affects minority communities throughout the U.S. and the world, and the North Shore is no exception,” said Lauren McCormack, executive director for the Marblehead Museum.

One of the key points discussed this past Monday by the MRJT was how the climate crisis does not impact all communities equally.

Low-income communities near polluting industries, called sacrifice zones, expose residents to dangerous chemicals and environmental threats. According to MRJT, one sacrifice zones is the cancer alley in Louisiana, which has 50 times the national average risk of cancer because of the concentration of dangerous petrochemical facilities.

“A fact that’s been made crystal-clear as too many low-income communities and people of color now face not just stronger storms and more lethal heatwaves, but compounding crises from air pollution to COVID-19,” Elledge said.

Environmental injustices in the U.S. can be seen in communities where people live with fracking in their backyards, according to the MRJT, breathing dangerous air pollution that eventually turns into serious health problems.

During the presentation, MRJT emphasized that oil and gas pipelines contaminate entire towns with lead, and that profits should not be prioritized over community health.

The solution to the climate crisis, MRJT said, includes organizations like Climate Justice Alliance to highlight race, gender, and class in climate action discussions.

During the discussion, support statements were included from Massachusetts leaders such as Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who said the country is facing an unprecedented public-health crisis.

“It is hitting communities of color, people with disabilities, low-income communities, and tribal nations especially hard, in large part because of government-sponsored discrimination and systemic racism,” Warren said.

“We must continue to fight for environmental justice so that our most vulnerable communities — in Massachusetts and across the country —no longer have to suffer,” she added.