With Earth Day upon us, people around the globe are reminded of how precious natural resources are to human life. Basics like healthy food, clean water, and a safe environment contribute to an overall healthier planet.
But often, the struggle to keep food on the table and the proverbial “wolf” away from the door has diverted the attention of African Americans, as a group, from becoming bigger players in the Green Movement.
This, however, does not mean that we don’t care about environmental issues. In fact, a new generation of black environmentalists is proving that we do indeed care about things that are green, and there is research to prove it.
In an article, titled “The Misconception of Black Environmentalism: African-Americans Speak Out On Earth Day” by Kezia Williams in Empowerment Magazine (http://www.empowermagazine.com, April 22, 2013), African Americans were shown to be far more interested in the Green Movement than many believe. Williams writes:
“Ten years ago Paul Mohai, author of “Dispelling Old Myths: African-American Concern for the Environment,” found that Black people are more likely than White Americans to make lifestyle choices that help protect the environment in three categories: buying pesticide-free foods (37 percent of Black people vs. 29 percent of Whites), consuming less meat (16 percent of Black People versus 10% of Whites) and driving less (44 percent of African-Americans versus 64 percent of Whites).”
The fact that the report was published a decade ago validates that point that protecting our living environment has been a concern for black people for quite a while. Living in unhealthful situations is the result of poverty, the lack of education and resources, not a lack of concern. It is also the result of living in communities with high noise levels, abandoned homes, trashy streets, pest-infested living environments and toxic air.
A few notable African Americans are debunking the myths through their work in green activism. Bryant Terry (http://www.bryant-terry.com) is raising awareness on the negative impact that the industrial food system has on health and the environment through his cookbooks and web series.
Quentin James (http://www.quentinjames.com) is the former National Director of the Sierra Club Student Coalition, the nation’s largest youth environmental organization. He became passionate about environmental after reading a remark by a tobacco executive who said smoking is for “the poor, the black and the stupid.”
Kari Fulton (http://bigthink.com), a black youth activist with the Environmental Justice and Climate Change Initiative, has worked with the United Nations to increase the presence of students of color at their climate change summit.
Despite social and financial struggles, blacks do care about the environment. I encourage everyone in Inglewood—black and otherwise—to attend the 5th annual Earth Day celebration on April 18th from 10am to 3pm on the South Lawn of City Hall. Commit to being a better steward of this beautiful planet which we all must share.