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Why Climate Change is a Racial Justice Issue

Why Climate Change is a Racial Justice Issue

Now I know what you’re probably thinking: what on earth does a shower company have to say about Black History Month? Truth be told: quite a lot. 

Our overarching mission as a company (and as eco-advocates) is to leave the planet in a better place and advocate for a more sustainable future, but we know that there is no climate justice without racial justice. 

Black History Month is an annual celebration and recognition of achievements by Black Americans. This month we’re honoring the many Black eco-activists who have made, and are currently making, tremendous strides in building a more sustainable and just future for all people.

Through their work, we have learned about environmental racism, or the disproportionate impact of environmental hazards on people of color, and have become increasingly aware of the importance of intersectional environmentalism.

According to Leah Thomas, co-founder of Intersectional Environmentalist, “[Intersectional environmentalism] is an inclusive version of environmentalism that advocates for both the protection of people and the planet. It identifies the ways in which injustices happening to marginalized communities and the earth are interconnected. It brings injustices done to the most vulnerable communities, and the earth, to the forefront and does not minimize or silence social inequality. Intersectional environmentalism advocates for justice for people + the planet.”

To put it simply, climate justice = racial justice = social justice. Not so complicated, right?

Dr. Martin Luther King, Greta Thunberg, and Sophia Kianni are but a few names that come to mind when we think of individuals who advocate for justice for both people and the planet, and see the two as intrinsically connected. We’re happy to see that the environmental space (which has historically been dominated by white voices), is gradually transforming into a more diverse collective of persons seeking change. Today, many eco-activists, businesses, the media, and even policy-makers are now using intersectional environmentalism as a lens through which to see climate justice. Some of the advocates we find particularly inspiring can be found here.  

That being said, it’s important to note that intersectional environmentalism is not to be confused with Environmental Racism, as the former includes other socio-political issues (such as feminism, race and age), whereas the latter is solely focused on the inaccessibility to environmental benefits for marginalised and/or BIPOC communities. 

While there are small and significant strides happening in the fight against climate change, there are also alarming environmental realities that the BIPOC community faces today. Just a few examples:

-Studies show that 
BIPOC communities (especially Black Americans) experience higher risk of harm, including premature death, from air pollution. (Source: The Guardian

-The concentration of gas stations and liquor stores, rather than fresh foods and grocers in BIPOC communities. (Source: @fridaysforfutureto) 

-2019 was the Earth's 2nd-hottest year on record. Black Americans are disproportionately exposed to extreme heat. (Source: The Guardian

Image by @FutureEarth

One issue in particular that is very dear to us is the unequal access to clean water in certain parts of the world, more often inhabited by communities of color. 

In the U.S., most people never give their water and wastewater systems a second thought, but people living in communities without safe and reliable infrastructure have to think about water and sanitation all the time

According to 501CTHREE (an innovative non-profit building a more sustainable future), “unequal water access isn't coincidental, it's historical. In the early 1900s, segregated Black communities in the US had less access to water, fewer sewage linkages, lower water pressure, and smaller water mains, among other inequities. Today, those issues live on. African-American and LatinX households are about twice as likely to lack complete plumbing than white households, and Native American households are 19 times more likely. Communities of color face challenges like lead-laden pipes [a popular example being Flint, Michigan] bacteria-contaminated water, or, sometimes, no existing water system at all.” Learn more about the water access gap in the U.S. here.

Thus, the only recycled matter in these communities are unhinged policies, systems and lack of investment --  which altogether need to change and be held accountable. 

Still with us? If you’ve made it this far, we encourage you to celebrate Black History Month with us by learning more about these topics, and doing what you can to support social and environmental justice in your community and the world.