The killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer has sparked outrage and mass protests around the globe. Men, women, and even children have descended on major cities to demand justice for George Floyd, and dozens of others who have been killed by police.
The police officers involved in Floyd’s murder have been charged, but social reform is still up in the air. Protests have risen over several high profile deaths in the past, including the death of Michael Brown and Tamir Rice, but little change has actually occurred. Body cameras were issued to police, but are often not turned on. More deescalation training has been offered, but isn’t always put into practice.
Yet this time, the BlackLivesMatter movement reports that protests over the death of George Floyd feels different. More “white allies” are joining black protesters against inequality. Some police officers have stepped forward to join protesters, kneeling in solidarity or comforting children who are afraid during the protests. Help is also coming from a somewhat more unusual source–environmental groups.
Standing up for a new cause
Sam Grant, the founder of MN350.org, Gretta Thunberg, Green Peace, The World Wildlife Fund, and many other environmental groups have all stepped forward to speak out for racial justice. In fact, 224 environmental groups stepped forward with a signed letter demanding justice for people of color.
According to Inside Climate News, racial justice and climate justice are directly linked. As climate change has altered our world, it typically effects the most vulnerable people among us. This includes those who can’t simply move away from communities next to polluting factories, island countries who don’t have the means to deal with rising sea levels, and women who must travel farther and farther to find water.
As climate change brings new extremes to our planet, people of color are often hit hardest. Most of the zip codes with the highest air pollution are all in black communities, and people of color are up to 3 times more likely to die from air pollution.
The root cause that has lead to human caused climate change has also lead to inequality. A culture of consumerism has pushed for revenue at any price, which has in part lead to ballooning carbon footprints in developed countries as well as diving wages.
Where we can go from here
Decarbonizing our economy is a strong step. While there would still be much that needs done, a green economy would remove many air pollution deaths, make communities where people of color live a safer place to be, help small countries avoid completely disappearing, and ease the burden for women living in extreme climates.
This can’t be the only step. Critics of environmental groups standing in solidarity with #BLM are concerned that decarbonizing the world will put even more strain on communities of color, with rising energy costs and fewer high paying jobs in the oil industry. These voices also need to be heard, so that a green future can be beneficial to everyone, including the generations who are living right now.
Going forward, we need to create a society that gives equality a fighting chance, both for our future and for those who are currently suffering.