Pathways SU24 Digital Magazine

Black and Brown Voices Must Shape the 2024 Green Agenda BY REV. LENNOX YEARWOOD, JR., HIP HOP CAUCUS CULTIVATING COMPASSION

With every election cycle, partisan stances on climate change have become increasingly influential for the ways in which Americans cast their ballots. In fact, new research by the University of Boulder’s Cen - ter for Environmental Futures found that climate change likely “cost Republicans the 2020 presidential election, all else being equal.” However, mainstream environmental movements have a tendency to write off the voting power of Black and brown communities in their fight to pass rehabilitative climate policies. Neglecting these commu - nities, and environmental justice and climate justice issues as inter- sectional, only serves to counteract the momentum needed to propel climate change to the forefront amid an overcrowded political land- scape; it will also prolong inequitable vulnerabilities faced by low-in- come communities of color. During the Trump Administration, over 100 environmental poli - cies impacting the quality of air, water and the safety of wildlife were diluted. Both the EPA and the Department of the Interior were pri - marily responsible for rolling back protections that help keep Ameri - can people and land healthy for generations to come. The former pres- ident rejected efforts to strengthen soot pollution standards , eased the leasing process for oil/gas companies to drill public lands , and weak- ened enforcement protections for endangered species . For Black and brown communities in particular, the Trump Administration’s policy changes demonstrated utter apathy toward their health and wellbeing. Soot is widely recognized as the “ No. 1 environmental health risk in the US ,” by which Black and Hispanic populations are burdened by 56% and 63% excess exposure respectively. If left unchanged, these

regulatory changes could significantly increase emissions of green - house gasses, damage Earth’s biodiversity, and perpetuate disparities in Americans’ quality of life. Under the current Biden Administration, however, many of these Trump-era cutbacks have been corrected. President Biden actively rec - ognizes climate change is a real problem; he has made active efforts to better protect the planet and its people. In April, the EPA announced new rules to reduce toxic air pollution from chemical plants in Loui- siana — cutting emissions dramatically from more than 200 plants, including one that is next door to a predominantly Black elementary school that exposes hundreds of children to chemicals at levels 400 times higher than what is considered safe. Hip Hop Caucus’ President & CEO Rev Yearwood Jr. and Events Director Calvin Spann speak at a Respect My Vote! tour stop in Milwaukee, September 2022.

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PATHWAYS—Summer 24—19

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