I am a White woman. And up until about three years ago, I was blissfully unaware of how intrinsically climate change and racism were linked. However, since delving more into the topic of sustainability, I’ve learned how key racial justice is in the mission to solve climate change.
In fact it’s so key, there’s a specific term for it—intersectional environmentalism. It’s a complex topic that I am still learning about, so by no means am I an expert. However, the point I’d like to highlight is this: Black and marginalized communities are disproportionally affected by climate change. Read that again.
Black people are 75% more likely to live near hazardous waste facilities. They face a higher possibility of death due to climate change-related natural disasters. And they are subjected to higher levels of air pollution than White Americans. The list could go on. For a long time.
The most unsettling part though, is that these groups of people do the least to contribute to climate change. Yet they are the most impacted by it. According to the Climate Vulnerable Forum, the 85 lowest emitting countries in the world (many of which are predominately low-income, POC populations) will bear 40 percent of the economic losses and 80 percent of the resulting deaths from human-induced climate change.
That’s not fair. And without more BIPOC individuals in places of power, it will continue to be unfair and our planet will suffer as a result.
Now this is just the tip of the iceberg on this topic. If you’d like to learn more about how racial justice and climate change intertwine here are 10 essential environmental justice books that can help you out!
10 Essential Environmental Justice Books
Climate Justice by Mary Robinson
In this quick read, Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland, recalls her personal interactions with marginalized communities affected by climate change across the world. Her stories give voices to the oppressed while offering inspiration and lessons for how we move forward.
Consumed by Aja Barber
In Consumed, Barber peals back the layers of injustice that exist within consumer industries and explores why we over consume. She delves into how the fashion industry was built on the exploitation of marginalized communities while detailing how modern day purchase habits of the privileged continue to perpetuate the issue. You’ll also find anecdotes from Barber’s personal life in which she reflects on a variety of topics including her experience traversing the fashion industry as a Black woman. It’s an enjoyable read about a serious topic that will leave you with a different perspective on how and why you buy.
Clean and White by Carl A. Zimring
In this book, Zimring details a history of environmental racism in America. He draws on historical evidence to articulate how the destructive notion that White people are “clean” and BIPOC are “dirty” continues to shape social and environmental equalities in our current society.
More Than Just Food by Garrett M. Broad
Food deserts are geographic areas where residents do not have reliable access to affordable, healthy food options due to the absence of grocery stores within convenient traveling distance. These circumstances are commonly found in BIPOC communities. In response to food deserts, activists based in low-income communities of color have developed community-based solutions. In this book, Broad examines theses solutions and how they could impact the food justice movement.
A Terrible Thing to Waste by Harriet A. Washington
In this powerful read, Washington delves into how BIPOC Americans are disproportionately harmed by environmental hazards. She examines the consequences such harm has not just on communities of color, but on the country as a whole. Then, using extensive research, she connects these hazards to to the Black / White IQ gap, and prompts audiences to think about how we can remedy the problem.
Raising our Hands by Jenna Arnold
Raising our Hands is a call to action for White women. As a Women’s March National Organizer, Arnold draws on her experience speaking with White women about their identities. From that experience she dissects why White women avoid difficult conversations about race and how that is doing a disservice to the social justice movement. Her book provides the tools White women need to do their part in lifting up marginalized voices and working toward equity.
White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo
In this vital read, DiAngelo looks at the defensive approach White people often take when challenged racially, and offers suggestions for how we can engage more constructively. An excellent read for White people looking to better understand and unlearn their biases.
Race, Place, and Environmental Justice After Hurricane Katrina by Robert Bullard and Beverly Wright
In this examination of the emergency response to Hurricane Katrina, Bullard and Wright illuminate how racial discrimination played into the inept response. They then dive deeper in to how the response affected the recovery of low-income victims. Along the way, Bullard and Wright look to answer several questions including: What went wrong? Can the government be trusted to respond fairly in natural disaster situations? And why do certain communities routinely get left behind?
Black Food Geographies by Ashante M. Reese
In this powerful look at food inequity, Reese draws the connection between food access and systemic racism. She also highlights how big business dictates food availability and the devastating impact that has on marginalized communities.
All We Can Save, Edited by Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and Katharine K. Wilkinson
All We Can Save is a collection of essays, poetry, and art curated by Ayana Elizabeth Johnson & Katharine K. Wilkinson. It features the knowledge of several diverse female leaders within the climate change movement. Together they offer solutions for how we can reshape society and shift our trajectory toward a more flourishing future.
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