Science Now + Beyond

Scientists, you need to stop forgetting about people of color

We need to seriously rethink the dominant discussion around climate change activism.

Why am I seeing tons of protests centered around protecting scientists in relation to climate change, without one mention that people of color are the most affected? Yes, scientists do need protection from censorship by the Trump administration and the threat of limited funding. That is a real crisis. But there needs to be at least a mention (or more, to be honest) of the disparate impact environmental issues have on people of color.

This awful administration’s climate policy and its reality of decreased pollution regulations, more corporate greed, and fervent white supremacy will hit poor communities of color the hardest. These communities tend to be located near the biggest polluters, such as power plants and highways. According to studies, POC experience 38% more NO2 pollution than white Americans. This is higher than the disparity between rich and poor, which indicates the pollution you may endure has more to do with race than income.

Jacqueline Patterson of the NAACP Climate Justice Initiative provides a few answers. Corporations may have built polluting facilities before the communities existed, or they moved into poor areas for economic reasons. However, they may have chosen to pollute nonwhite areas in particular because of the lack of “political pushback”.

In short, harming the most marginalized creates little outrage in the country at large.

This reality is reflected in past events. Think about the most famous recent events surrounding the negative impact of climate change. Hurricane Katrina, Flint, and Standing Rock all affected people of color disproportionately. And neither issue got anything close to a happy ending.

These are the people that need and engage in climate change activism the most, yet they are marginalized at rallies and national conversations on climate change! How can we build any sort of equitable climate justice without including people of color?

If you are white (like myself), you can start by decentralizing yourself from the issue. Sure, it sucks that your favorite subject in school is being threatened, but maybe that isn’t the most important thing right now.

And, looking more broadly, the dominant discourse around climate change has a lot to do with the beauty of nature, i.e. the forests, the oceans, the rivers, rather than the indigenous and poor communities that are dying because of it.

If you are an organizer (props to you), make sure to not further marginalize people of color by excluding their issues from your protest. Even more, reach out to POC to help you organize. If you are marching for science, mention how nonwhite Americans are the most affected. And join their protests.

Something we can all do is stay informed about new efforts by people of color to combat environmental issues. Residents in Flint, Michigan have just sued the EPA, and those at Standing Rock are taking a similar approach. Support their efforts! And let us not forget the unique struggles of nonwhite groups in the US.

It is easy for the privileged to get caught up in personal outrage and neglect the most victimized, but we must remember. Any sort of lasting, inclusive movement must be built from the bottom up; from the margin to the center.


Senior News & Society Editor Asma Elgamal launches Policy channel to face the new political era

2016 was a tough year. In looking at the global political landscape, 2016 presented us with events like Brexit and the Trump administration, propelling hate groups into mainstream platforms and frankly terrifying the hell out of some of us.

[bctt tweet=”In times like these, the most powerful thing we can do is equip ourselves with knowledge.” username=”wearethetempest”]

Social activism hit a new high, Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat – all became tools to resist and to make our voices heard. But even that sometimes, isn’t enough. As horrific as it is, a lot of the awful things that have been happening are completely legal. It’s like Hydra has infiltrated the highest levels and we are playing a very tricky game of dismantling policies while pretending that evil isn’t currently reigning over us.

“In times like these, the most powerful thing we can do is equip ourselves with knowledge,” Elgamal noted.

Like most things governmental, policies are shrouded in technical language, used to make things complex and drawn out. Some policies and legislation are incredibly long and honestly, that kind of information is not appealing to read. Although it’s super important to know what laws govern us, who really has the time to go through all these new documents to ascertain what is going on?

It’s hard to speak out against something that we don’t really understand.

So to help us deal with the aftermath, Asma Elgamal, our Senior News & Society Editor at The Tempest decided to approach things in a different way, launching the Policy channel at The Tempest.

Elgamal said, “The sole purpose of this vertical is to target and help decipher laws and policies so that everyone knows exactly what is going on. The aim of this is so that it is easier to understand which policies affect you and what they set out to do. In turn, preparing us for doing whatever is necessary to combat these policies.” Read more about The Tempest’s Policy vertical here.