Public Health

Climate Connections: Environmental Racism


Environmental racism is a public health crisis! Once you see the connection, it can’t be unseen. The systemic oppression that redlines and reduces housing opportunities, limits people’s right to vote, and threatens a person’s safety from the state and police is the same that allows dumping, drilling, pesticides, heat islands, and environmental degradation in communities of color that both create and exacerbate health issues.

When political representation, economic opportunities, and environmental resources are stolen from communities, environmental outcomes are deadly. For example, increased levels of pesticides in the air and water instigate and exacerbate cases of asthma in the Central Valley, California a location with a large latinx, immigrant community. Factory dumping in Louisiana’s Cancer Alley disproportionately affects it’s large (4x the national average) Black population. And paper mills pollute the fishing waters and sicken the Mi’qmaq indigenous community in A’se’k (Boat Harbour), Nova Scotia.

The health outcomes are real when we destroy and exploit nature. And it’s most often worse for those who didn’t even do the damage.

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Written by Trymaine Lee
Photography by Matt Black

One by one nearly all of Brunetta Sims’ neighbors have disappeared. Some have died of cancer or other mysterious illnesses. Others packed up and moved when the air got too thick or too nasty for their little ones to handle. Many more relocated after being bought out by the bigwigs over at the oil plant next door. […]

“It’s an economic issue but there are also racial dynamics playing out, and race is still the most powerful predictor of where these facilities are located,” Bullard said. “African Americans, even affluent African Americans are more likely to live closer to and in communities that are more polluted than poor white families that make $10,000 a year.”
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Climate Creative Editor Note
The stunning photojournalism that accompanies this beautifully written, data-rich, human-centric piece is beautiful and haunting and left an impact on me.

Casey Berkovitz

Racism suffuses nearly every system and institution in the United States, and the COVID-19 crisis has highlighted and magnified that racial inequality, as it has so many other injustices that existed before the pandemic. As a patchwork of demographic data on COVID-19 is released, it is becoming clear that Black communities across the country have been the hardest hit by the pandemic, both contracting and dying from the disease at rates far out of proportion.

The reasons for these disparities are myriad and interconnected.
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Climate Creative Editor Note
I appreciate how this article connects multiple levels of systemic race-based policy oppression together in a clear way that illustrates their impacts on communities, their environments, and ultimately their health and safety. COVID-19 is such a problem in the US right now that we need to be hyper-aware of the policies that have failed Black, Indigenous, and communities of color as we attempt to create a just and equitable COVID recovery plan.

Kim Bojórquez

Latinos and African Americans are more likely to view pollution as a serious health threat than other groups, according to a new statewide study by the Public Policy Institute of California. “African Americans and Latinos are more likely than others to say that air and water pollution in their part of California are very serious health threats to themselves and their families,” said Mark Baldassare, president and CEO of the Public Policy Institute of California, in the study.
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Climate Creative Editor Note
I thought this article was interesting because it helps to statistically situate the divide in perception of the urgency and outcomes of climate change. Environmental organizations are often #sowhite, but Black, Indigenous, and people of color are on average reported to have higher levels of concern for the environment and involvement in action. See also Americans of Color Are Way More Likely to Be Environmentalists

John Eligon

If Flint were rich and mostly white, would Michigan’s state government have responded more quickly and aggressively to complaints about its lead-polluted water?

The 274 pages of emails released by Gov. Rick Snyder this week on Flint’s water crisis included no discussion of race. Instead, they focused on costs relating to the city’s water supply, questions about scientific data showing lead contamination and uncertainty about the responsibilities of state and local health officials.
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Climate Creative Editor Note
Even though this article is 4 years old, the information and background is great, the analysis is intriguing, and sadly Flint is still feeling the fallout of this disaster. Some current updates are that there is a preliminary agreement to pay Flint residents $600 million to settle lawsuits filed against the state with 80% of the money to go to youth who were harmed and officials are still in the process of replacing led pipes which means that many are still using bottled water.



Across the US, black people are dying from Covid-19 at disproportionately high rates. While there are many different factors at play behind the stark racial disparities — there’s one possible reason that’s been lurking in the air for decades: pollution.

The long history of segregation and housing discrimination has long put black people at greater risk of living near chemical plants, factories and highways, exposing them to higher levels of air pollutants. These pollutants have had a chronically negative impact on health, leading to conditions like hypertension and asthma. Now, those same diseases are associated with severe cases of Covid-19, and showing that where you live can determine whether you survive from Covid-19.
Watch On»

Climate Creative Editor Note
This video does such a great job with data visualization to explain concepts in a clear, clean way.

Co-directed by Ellen Page & Ian Daniel
Inspired by Dr. Ingrid Waldron's book

The injustices and injuries caused by environmental racism in her home province, in this urgent documentary on Indigenous and African Nova Scotian women fighting to protect their communities, their land, and their futures.
Watch On»

Climate Creative Editor Note
Community storytelling is always impactful to me. I enjoyed hearing directly from the activists who continue to fight and organize against large, somewhat faceless companies and governments.


Help St. James, Louisiana fight the construction of yet another plastics plant! Visit to learn more.

Not only is St. James fighting for their community, but their fight also protects communities across the US and the World from more plastic pollution. Below are some suggested actions to support them.
Visit Website»

Rise St. James Facebook

Climate Creative Editor Note
A follow don't cost a thing! It helps show community support for the movement and keeps you updated on their progress.

Stop Formosa Digital Toolkit

Climate Creative Editor Note
Get more folks into the movement! Stop Formosa has a great social media and outreach toolkit to help you spread their word.

Rise St. James

Climate Creative Editor Note
Give five ($5) to fight plastic pollution! By putting money into community organizations they can grow and have a greater impact.