Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities have disproportionately been the dumping grounds for our country’s deadliest toxic pollutants. We have instituted economic and environmental apartheid through redlining, restrictive covenants and unfair zoning practices. Black neighborhoods, Latinix communities, and Indigenous lands have become “sacrifice zones”, places where smelters, coal-fired power plants, incinerators, petrochemical refineries, gas pipelines, toxic waste dumps, and other deadly facilities can be placed to keep the air and water of other places “clean”. All of this damages lungs and other organs and reduces the lifetime of people who breathe the air and drink the water.
The burning of all those petrochemicals is causing climate change and ever larger and more frequent hurricanes, floods, fires, droughts and longer periods of extreme heat. People of color are more likely to live in flood plains and in buildings with no way to keep cool. They do not get help with building new housing when their home is swept away by wind and high water. We only have to remember the images from Hurricane Katrina to see what climate change is doing to people of color.
The Green New Deal has five main goals. The first four are about net-zero green house gas emissions, creating millions of good jobs, investing in infrastructure and industry, and providing all people clean air and water, food, access to nature, and a sustainable environment. The fifth goal is “to promote justice and equity by stopping current, preventing future, and repairing historic oppression of indigenous communities, communities of color, migrant communities, deindustrialized communities, depopulated rural communities, low-income workers, women, the elderly, the unhoused, people with disabilities, and youth..”
The Green New Deal Resolution proposes a 10 year national mobilization and lists 14 areas of work that needs to be done to achieve the five goals.
The last part of the resolution proscribes a list of 15 ways that these projects are to be carried out and the need to address the historic harms of systemic racism in our country are addressed in almost every step. Some examples:
- “ providing resources, training and high-quality education …with a focus on frontline and vulnerable communities..”,
- “prioritizing high-quality job creation and economic, social, and environmental benefits in frontline and vulnerable communities…”,
- “ensuring the use of democratic and participatory processes that are inclusive of and led by frontline and vulnerable communities and workers to plan, implement, and administer the Green New Deal mobilization at the local level
- “obtaining the free, prior and informed consent of indigenous people for all decisions that affect indigenous people and their traditional territories, honoring all treaties ad agreements…”
Of course, environmental harm is only one of the ways that racism inflicts pain and the Green New Deal seeks to address the economic injustice with calls for healthcare, living wages, and access to healthy communities and unions for everyone.