As we conclude the hottest summer on record — where 80% of all people worldwide in July experienced crippling extreme heat and severe weather events, our ever-changing climate reinforces the need to clean up the air for Black and Brown communities that contribute the least to environmental harm and yet are the most adversely affected.
The climate crisis is a threat multiplier and it builds upon inequities. Efforts to create solutions must prioritize Black, brown and low-wealth communities — especially children, pregnant women and those 65 years and older.
It is encouraging to see the one-year-old clean energy and jobs law, known as the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) allocate about $315 million for air monitoring for schools and people living near polluting plants and facilities.
The IRA has also brought 129 clean energy projects with more than 85,000 new jobs to communities of color across the United States.
As wildfires, drought, poor air quality and extreme weather events harm our communities, we can celebrate the Biden-Harris administration’s goal to achieve a pollution-free power sector by 2035 and slash pollution in half by 2030.
The IRA brings historic levels of funding for this effort, yet many Americans, 71% – know little or nothing at all about the IRA or its climate-related incentives. According to Media Matters, in 2022, combined climate change coverage across corporate broadcast morning news, nightly news, and Sunday morning political shows reached a record 1,374 minutes — nearly 23 hours.
As the National Manager for Health Equity at Moms Clean Air Force, I had the honor of speaking beside panelists Dr. Margot Brown, senior vice president of Justice and Equity at Environmental Defense Fund, Cornell Wesley, chief economic development officer, for the City of Birmingham and moderator Phil Lewis, Sr., front Page Editor of HuffPost at the 2023 National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) Convention. We spoke with journalists, communicators and allies about how we all play a role in advancing community-based solutions.
More than 3,500 professionals gathered at NABJ, and I left even more inspired to continue the work being done to significantly reduce the pollution driving these scorching temperatures. Our conversation serves as a reminder to continue the push for equity in and outside of newsrooms around the world.
So, what can we do to increase awareness of equitable climate and clean air solutions? It starts with telling the environmental justice stories hidden within the coverage of natural disasters, raging wildfires, disastrous flash flooding and so much more. Stories of the ongoing struggles faced by frontline communities before and after a disaster or historical injustices are often left out of the narrative. Bringing more attention to these issues can lead to more equitable policy changes.
We must educate our audiences to ensure that Black, Brown, and low-wealth communities understand and support the benefits of the Inflation Reduction Act. Our stories must provide insight to help these communities monitor the implementation of programs and funding that holds polluters, corporations and elected officials more accountable for the actions they take.
Commemorating the one-year anniversary of the historic clean energy plan is a time to celebrate lower energy costs for families, keeping the lights on in extreme weather and renewing U.S. manufacturing. As we look to the next year of implementation of the IRA, we must also call for more action rooted in justice and equity to ensure these funds flow into environmental justice communities. We must urge journalists to tell the stories of those whose voices are not only ignored but historically silenced.
Everyone – including policymakers, elected leaders, “Big Green” organizations, journalists and individuals – must be prepared to speak up against environmental threats to better position community needs and priorities at the center. As the Inflation Reduction Act continues to build our clean energy economy, we must amplify and use our platforms to advance solutions that address all forms of injustice. To do this, we must work together, as long as it takes, to establish equity for all people, for generations to come.