Climate change affects us all – but some of us more than others.
The phenomenon has a name: environmental racism. And studies show that, due in large part to environmental policy failures and a lack of resources, people of color disproportionately suffer the effects of climate change. The ongoing water crisis in Flint, Michigan, is one especially troubling example.
These five Black women are fighting to ensure a brighter, cleaner, healthier future for everyone. Read on to learn more about their efforts.
This youth activist from Uganda began her career by staging a strike outside of her nation’s parliament building – alone at first, but others soon began to join her in action. She then founded the Rise Up Movement, which seeks to give African climate change activists a platform to speak from, and organized awareness campaigns around threats to Congolian rainforests, among other regional efforts. Nakate has also taken international action by addressing world leaders at COP25 and the World Economic Forum, and through high-profile media publications.
Tamara Toles O’Laughlin
As the president and CEO of the Environmental Grantmakers Association in New York City, Toles O’Laughlin directs the giving of roughly $1.8 billion annually to various environmental causes. Her career began with positions in governmental bodies focused on energy and environment issues. She also worked as the executive director of the Maryland Environmental Health Network, and was the North American director of 350.org, a movement against fossil fuel usage. Her words on climate change have been published by the likes of Rolling Stone and The Nation.
Environmental racism is a particular focus of Taylor’s, as the senior associate dean of diversity, equity, and inclusion and an environmental justice professor at the Yale School of the Environment. Before that, she did similar work at the University of Michigan, while publishing numerous books on the subject. Since 1989, she’s been sounding the alarm on the racial inequities in the consequences of climate change – as well as within the climate-change movement. Her work has garnered her many awards and distinctions over the years.
Sanders is currently the executive director of Our Climate, a youth-led organization campaigning for climate justice. Growing up in Louisiana, she saw firsthand how racial inequities and climate change converge by living through Hurricane Katrina and its after-effects. She moved to Washington, D.C. to take action, interning for the U.S. House of Representatives before taking on a role at refugee assistance organization HIAS. Sanders also presently works with two other environmental outfits: the Ocean Discovery Institute and Carbon180.
Gunn-Wright also lived the impacts of environmental racism, suffering from asthma due to her Chicago neighborhood’s proximity to pollution, which cleared up after moving away. That experience fueled a career of research on and advocacy for those most hurt by climate change. She’s best known for her work as an architect of the Green New Deal, a sweeping policy proposal that seeks to address a range of climate-change and economic issues. This Rhodes Scholar is presently the climate policy director for liberal think tank The Roosevelt Institute in New York City.
(Images of Nakate, Toles O’Laughlin, Taylor and Gunn-Wright are courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. Image of Sanders is courtesy of Our Climate.)