Blacks have important stake in environmental issues

INDIANAPOLIS – Trying to pay the mortgage, helping their kids stay in school, working two jobs to feed a family of five – some believe African Americans living in urban areas have too much on their plate to care about environmental issues.

Earth preservationists state environmental issues have everything to do with the Black community, especially when it comes to environmental injustice. African Americans are urged to not only take action on environmental issues in their community, but also take small steps to make a difference.

When it comes to environmental injustice, Norris MacDonald, president of the African American Environmentalist Association, states that urban communities are an easy target for industrial development. In many cases, there is a disproportionate amount of pollution located in Black neighborhoods. “Blacks, we’re scrambling so hard, in many cases we don’t take the time to go to these hearings.

Corporations know this and they take the path of least resistance,” said MacDonald. “It isn’t necessarily an executive’s decision to say ‘let’s put it with the Blacks, lets pollute them.’ It’s just easy to site it there. It’s up to us to make it hard for them.” Instead of not taking any action whatsoever or waiting until it’s a real threat to the community, Blacks are encouraged to attend policy meetings and work with their city/county, state and federal legislatures to put the environment on their agenda as well.

Whether it’s high utility prices, polluted air due to harmful emissions, or bad water from lead in old pipes, by participating in policy decision-making and working with environmental groups, Steve Cochram of the Environmental Defense Fund states working on issues that specifically affect a person’s community will go a long way.

“Everybody has different views of what the environment is. Some work on issues of wilderness and all those things are important, but sometimes these issues disconnect people in the process,” said Cochram. “One person doing something, maybe; 1,000 people doing something, it’s different; a million people, then the whole country doing something because of one individual action makes a difference.”

In addition to high energy prices and lead-based paint in older homes, environmental problems such as global warming, restoring wildlife, more green, sustainable and Earth friendly urban areas are just a few topics on the table when dealing with the environment. Experts state sometimes issues like global warming and problems at the polar ice caps may seem too overwhelming to environmental neophytes.

Average citizens may think “what can I do about it” or “it’s up to someone else to do it,” but there are things people can do in their own home, car or business that makes sense, adds dollars to their pockets and contributes greatly to the cause. Weather proofing one’s home, purchasing energy efficient appliances, purchasing a hybrid vehicle (which are rapidly growing in variety), fixing leaky sinks and toilets, or walking instead of driving short distances, all contribute to helping the environment.

“The thing with energy efficiency is that it actually saves real money in the process. You cut down on utility bills and household expenses, things that make a difference. It’s a win-win,” said Cochram. (AP)

______ Copyright 2008 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.  

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