“We don’t have time to sit on our hands as our planet burns. For young people, climate change is bigger than election or re-election. It’s life or death.”Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
The climate crisis demands that the nation transition to cleaner energy sources, and this transition is critical for our health. Needs don’t get much more basic than clean air and water, but too many people of color are suffering without either. In the case of air pollution, it’s well known that Black, Latinx, Indigenous, and Asian or Pacific Islander people are more likely to live in areas exposed to air pollution. They are also more likely to live in areas where air pollution is toxic enough to increase rates of cancer, diabetes, asthma, and other medical conditions. Furthermore, a recent study shows that this poor air quality is disproportionately linked to White America’s consumption of goods and services. In short, people of color are paying the ultimate price for the consumption-based economic growth of our nation.
Turning to water, we see racial bias in access, treatment, and costs of water. In poor Black and Latinx communities, studies show that utilities are more likely to violate the Safe Drinking and Water Act by not properly or thoroughly treating water to remove contaminants as set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Access is a problem as well. For example, between 7.5% and 12% of Native American households lack piped water systems, increasing the likelihood of unsafe water. In areas where water pipes are available but population is dwindling or small, families may not be able to afford the high cost of water. And in many cities, upgrades to water infrastructure to provide safe water is prohibitively expensive.
Policies for consideration:
- Mitigate climate change impact on frontline communities by dedicating a fund
- Produce electricity through renewable resources
- Provide grants, subsidies, and rebates for low-income people to access electric vehicles and energy-efficient homes to lower the cost of energy-saving products
- Create a robust infrastructure bill with targeted resources to communities without access to clean air and water
- Protect water sources through trade regulations and procurement standards