By Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, Evergreen Advisory Board member
I’ll remember this spring as the season when my heart broke over and over again.
The murders of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Tony McDade, David McAtee, Rayshard Brooks — five new names in a long line of Black people needlessly killed by police — knocked the wind out of me. Meanwhile, the coronavirus pandemic continues to rage, taking the air from the lungs of Black Americans whose upbringings in the shadows of polluting factories and toxic waste sites have left them more vulnerable to disease.
As a Black scientist, the intersection of race and the climate crisis is personal to me. People want to see these as separate issues — believe me, I get it, addressing climate is hard enough on its own — but they are inseparable. I joined Evergreen Action’s Advisory Board in part because they get this.
In hopes of reaching more people about these intersections, I wrote about how racism derails our efforts to defeat the climate crisis for The Washington Post.
Now that police brutality and racial injustice are at the top of the headlines, we must turn collective anguish into collective action. I’ve been pleased to see these efforts start to bring about real changes in many cities.
Climate activists should take heed: Addressing racial injustice in America is a central and inextricable component of addressing the climate crisis. Not only because people of color are more impacted by climate disasters but also because, per polling, we are more concerned about climate change and can more effectively lead our communities toward climate solutions if unburdened by the many manifestations of racism.
Becoming anti-racist will accelerate climate solutions — and that’s what my op-ed invites you to do. I hope you’ll read and share it to spread the word about how the fights for racial justice and climate justice are intertwined.
Solving the climate crisis is going to take all of us. Polling shows that there are tens of millions of Black Americans who care deeply about the climate crisis but are forced to focus on other risks instead of fully dedicating themselves to the climate fight.
By becoming anti-racist and inviting people in our lives to join us, we can create the space for Black people to give the climate crisis all we’ve got.
Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson
Evergreen Advisory Board Member