Tuesday, March 31, 2009

In the U.S., African Amercans are the hardest hit by climate change

Captions: left Prof. Cricket with her Christmas scarf. Right: the Rev. Michael McClain of the National Council of Churches of Christ Eco-Justice Programs.(Photos by Naomi)

By Naomi Yaeger UMW Green Team Rep and Prof. Cricket, her determined little dog.

Prof. Cricket and I live in a northern city, Duluth, MN. We go for lots of walks and this keeps us in contact with the people of the neighborhood. While Duluth doesn't have a large population of African Americans, we live in a part of the city that has a larger population of minorities than other parts of this city of 80,000 people.

One thing my little doggie and I have noticed is that of our environmentally minded friends we do not see many African Americans. I serve as the editor of "The Hillsider". It is a newspaper for the core neighborhoods in Duluth and we work hard to cover issues that affect minority people. One of the people on the board of directors of this non-profit newspaper, an African American woman, also had noticed that not many of her African American friends and acquaintances were as interested in environmental issues. She lived only a block away and I used to stop by with Prof. Cricket when we went for walks. (Prof. Cricket was fascinated with her cat.)

Anyway, we would talk about many things and one day she phoned me to tell me about an African American man she had just met. He was interested in the environment and trying to get people to recycle and participate in other environmental programs. She said this was the first African American that she had met who was "into" the environment. To her environmentalism was low on her priority scale. She thought she had more pressing issues to worry about.

Well, anyway the above story illustrates my personal experience with minorities interest in green issues. Here is an article I wrote for our newspaper:

Baptist minister says impacts of global warming fall harder on African-Americans than others

In March I attended Ecumenical Advocacy Days in Washington, D.C. as part of my role as a member of the United Methodist Women’s Green Team for the state of Minnesota. Over 700 people of faith from across the nation attended this conference. The theme was “Enough for all.” On the last day we visited our representatives and senators on Capitol Hill
We learned about environmental racism, in which the people who are already living in poverty are often dealing with the effects of environmental degradation.

I met Baptist minister Michael McClain, a staff-member of the National Council of Churches of Christ Eco-Justice Programs. He spoke about how minority people have often felt left out of the environmental movement when in fact they are the ones who are hardest hit by environmental degradation.

He said, “The worst impacts of global warming fall harder on African-Americans than on anyone else in the United States.” He cited asthma rates are often higher in minority communities, and minorities will pay a higher percentage of their incomes to increasing energy costs.
McClain works to reach out to historic black churches, explain the ways in which climate change is impacting poor people and people of color, and invite them to sign the National Council of Churches’ Faith Principles on Global Warming.
He is also working on home insulation programs, which help people lower energy costs as well as lower their carbon footprint.
If you would like to learn more email McClain at mmclain AT nccecojustice.org or visit nccecojustice.org

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