The Communities of Climate Change Are Leading the Charge

Members of the Asian Pacific Environmental Network protest Chevron. Source. APEN Facebook

The Faces of Climate Change” is the theme of Earth Day this year.  And it’s fitting given the impact that climate change had in 2012 for many of us.

2012 proved loud and clear that climate change knows no boundaries – it affects all of us.  And climate change does not work in isolation; it is a challenge in every aspect of our lives. It threatens the viability of our food system, as our farmers must deal with extreme droughts or floods that wipe out our fruits and vegetables.  It destroys our homes as we witnessed in the unprecedented forest fires in Colorado.  And it destroys our infrastructure – from broadband and transit lines to the power grid – as we witnessed with the raw power unleashed by Superstorm Sandy last November.

Yet, while we are all impacted, communities of color are often hardest hit. Black residents in Los Angeles, for example, are twice as likely to die from heat waves as Whites. And people of color often live nearest to the pollution sources that are root causes of climate change.  For instance, a recent NAACP report found that people of color are disproportionately located within three miles of coal plants.

So it should come as no surprise that these same communities are at the forefront of the fight against climate change.  In recognition of the many “Faces of Climate Change”, we want to celebrate some of the “Communities of Climate Change” that have been leading the charge against the biggest threat to Mother Earth.

While the solutions and actions may look different, they all have one thing in common, what we at the Center for Social Inclusion call community-scale solutions. These are not “one-size-fits all” models. Instead they respond to community needs and build on community assets.

What makes these models so critical are the impacts on the community:

  • Local, sustainable, quality jobs for residents;
  • Entrepreneurship and asset creation;
  • Health improvements;
  • Stronger political economy of marginalized communities, particularly communities of color, by building their power, value and agency in the economy and in public policy.

So today on Earth Day, let us honor the work of these “Communities of Climate Change.”  And let’s join them in advocating for policies at the federal, state and local level that ensure inclusive planning and provide public dollars to advance and replicate the positive change happening in communities all around us.