Home | About | Donate

Hurricane Katrina Proved That If Black Lives Matter, So Must Climate Justice


Hurricane Katrina Proved That If Black Lives Matter, So Must Climate Justice

Elizabeth Yeampierre

Those of us from low-income communities of color are on the frontlines of the climate crisis. US cities and towns that are predominantly made up of people of color are also home to a disproportionate share of the environmental burdens that are fueling the climate crisis and shortening our lives. One has only to recall the gut-wrenching images of Hurricane Katrina’s aftermath to confirm this.


i think your opening sentence would be stronger if it said and instead of but:

“There are some good points here and I think the situation is a bit more complicated.”

i’m in Seattle and frankly having a bit of trouble breathing this week. When the whole ecology dis-integrates, we’ll all be on the front lines.

But you should think long and hard about Yeampierre’s points about who is and has always been on the front lines, whose needs and solutions are foregrounded by the mainstream environmental movement, and who is and should be in the leadership of the climate justice movement.


Thank you, Ms. Yeampierre for explaining that the generic WE-frame allows the usual powerbrokers to decide (and speak) for the rest of us.

Also, your intelligent article shows that Monsanto’s version of agriculture along with so-called industrial development are not the fruits of humanity as a whole. And that there ARE other ways to live on this planet that are far wiser and more life-sustaining.

“Similarly, a climate movement led by people of traditional power and privilege will not relieve the crises we face. Our communities know another way. As people of African and Indigenous ancestry, we come from societies and ways of life that protect and nurture Mother Earth. Now is the time to reconnect with our old ways. The knowledge is there – it is in our historical memory, and we are doing this work. Environmental and climate justice activists are working at the grassroots level to develop indigenous leadership around local climate solutions.”

The ways of Indigenous persons are typically discounted as if the “White Man’s Burden” (adjunct to Empire and Exceptionalism) solved the world’s hunger crisis, truly spread Democracy, lifted all ships into prosperity and brought peace. In every instance, it’s been a 180-degree reversal on each and every premise.

Time for OTHER voices in Council Circles to determine our collective future.


While it is true that so much toxicity affects every ecosystem and probably every region (with varying levels of frequency and intensity), the FACTS (as presented in the article) cannot BE refuted:

“The environmental justice and Black Lives Matter movements are complementary. Black lives matter in the Gulf, where most of the fatalities resulting from Hurricane Katrina were black people, and which was home to the largest marine oil spill in history five years later. Black lives matter in Red Hook, Brooklyn, where hundreds of black families waited for weeks for electricity, heat and in some cases, running water, to be turned back on after Superstorm Sandy. Black lives matter in Richmond, California, home to the largest oil refinery on the West Coast. Black lives matter in Detroit, home to the largest solid waste incinerator in the US.”

Your comment deliberately minimizes the painful truth that aims most directly AT the Black community. If anything, an apology is warranted.

Recognizing that industries are murdering this planet’s ecosystems is important, but that hardly discounts the fact that Black communities are closest to the “lines of fire.” I might add in poor communities in West Virginia, too, due to coal slurry and/or mountain top blasts that destroy the local streams and water table.


If you’re willing to look into it, here is a bunch of background material in environmental justice.

No one disputes that ecological dis-integration ultimately impacts everyone, and that not all instances of environmental degradation exemplify institutional racism. But you’re lacking important understanding, and therefore you’re speaking in language that only resonates with a limited number of people.


" “Ecology” is the study of the home."

Right, because like every word, the etymology of “oikos” is simply a static maintenance of meaning. Words do not evolve.