Not everyone is affected equally by the same events (Exhibit A: That time when America was “great”). That being the case, we should make ourselves well-informed about historical and current events so that we can protect ourselves and those we care about. Climate change is a popular topic in media today and it will absolutely have historical impacts. News flash: This is humanity’s first rodeo; no one knows what they’re doing to be honest. The climate march and science march this year, their inaugural years, were well received and attended. So that tells me this is a recent topic lots of people care about (pay attention my melaninated loves). Yet, there is still little actionable progress since, and the deniers and skeptics are still speaking loudly against these marches and fields.
Aside, I blame lots of this on the lack of diversification of the scientific field. Think of a scientist. What does it look like? Whether you believe in climate change or are skeptical, individuals belonging to communities of color need to inform themselves on climate change as a risk and as an opportunity.
Climate change will affect communities of color more intensely than communities of non-color. The land that our homes rest upon, the watershed that is our life support system, the quality of products accessible in grocery stores, our municipal infrastructure systems, recreational activities and areas, our career industries, our favorite technology, will all be threatened or suffer (influenced) by climate change in some way, as our politicians make changes to our economy and policies to adapt to new findings. (Recap: So no one on this planet really knows what to expect, so we're all winging it and doing the best research we can? Fair enough.)
I claim that climate change will affect communities of color more negatively due to the current climate of social and environmental justice. Call me bold, but I don’t expect things to change on their own.
Flint, Michigan and Isle de Jean Charles, Louisiana (near author’s home) are two great examples of communities of color being more vulnerable to environmental challenges than their neighboring communities. In Flint, Michigan, poor infrastructure maintenance has created a community of people with an unusable water supply. In the Isle, people are literally being forced (bought out) to leave the historical and generational lands (land deemed without value by mainstream society) left to their family due to rising sea levels and subsidence. Communities near you and near me are being left behind and forgotten about because we’re not up for the challenge of solving the issue. Well, in the AA case, I think it’s just that we don’t know these issues exist because of diaspora and because we don’t have the tools, even the vocabulary, to have an actionable discussion about these tragedies.
These challenges are also opportunities. On the horizon we face either (1) repeating or (2) new environmental and climate challenges. As we learn more, we will begin to develop solutions, and then we’ll need people to apply these solutions. We’ll need new technologies and policies to protect ourselves. Shall we wait for others and those outside of our communities to identify current and potential problems in our lives, and to tell us what’s best for us in these unprecedented times? Or would we rather learn about these events and put our own people to work for the betterment of our own communities. Collaboration is a wonderful tool, but we have to ready ourselves to be helped by others, and to help ourselves simultaneously. No community is perfect, but the people inside of it will be the best to make it better, and are invested in its future, having historical knowledge of it.
If you think that climate change will not have an impact on your life, or if you believe that you have time until the next emergency or extreme weather related event, you may be mistaken. On February 7, 2017 my home was destroyed by a tornado in New Orleans East. It was the first tornado to affect the area, and my neighborhood will likely never be the same. The recovery process is moving at glacial speeds. The impact climate change has on each person, each community, each country, will be different. There is no one size fits all emergency plan or evacuation route, and humans have a habit of reacting rather than pro-acting
This message is a plea to all communities of color to discover the vulnerabilities in your communities so that we may reinforce them together. I’m mostly concerned about environmental and climate challenges in this message, but political, social and economic changes can also be destructive and are all tied to climate/environment. It would be naive for us to believe that we are protected and prepared for a large challenge to any of these systems—or that we have the same resources as everyone else. So take time for yourself to learn more about the ways that climate change may impact you individually.