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  • Writer's pictureKrista Kurth, Ph.D.

Be Inspired by Martin Luther King, Jr in Your Climate Action

5 Key Actions You Can Take Now to Engage in Environmental Justice

Photo by Author, January 2021

During this week of honoring the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., let’s heed the words he spoke in New York in 1967 (as memorialized in stone at his monument in Washington, DC) and use them as inspiration for creating more environmental justice:

“Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies.”

I imagine if he were alive in 2022, Dr. King would extend his advice to preserving the planet. Racism, justice, and environmental issues are intricately linked. For instance, communities of color experience a larger than average impact from rising temperatures. In urban areas, communities that were segregated in the past have the highest temperatures and least number of trees.

Polluting corporations also locate in communities of color since it’s cheaper there. To add insult to injury, there is a lack of diversity in government agencies and environmental organizations, which may hinder climate action in areas that have contributed the least to climate change but experience the direst affects.

Given the realities of environmental racism, how do we create a more just response to climate change and other environmental issues?

5 Ways to Engage in Environmental Justice Now

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash
  1. Educate Yourself about Environmental Injustice and Justice. Anthony Karefa Rogers-Wright, the director of environmental justice for New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, recommends we learn more about where, what, and how communities are disproportionately affected by harmful environmental actions. Then use this information to inspire you to act.

To learn more, read:

Photo by Callum Shaw on Unsplash

2. End Fossil Fuel Racism. While fossil fuel pollution harms many people each year, BIPOC communities are harmed more than any other areas. The best way to end fossil fuel racism is to work to phase out fossil fuels completely. In the United States, President Biden has committed to “redress historic inequities” and allocate a significant amount of funds to communities of color via the infrastructure bill. Now we need to hold the Administration and Congress accountable to follow through on their commitments and continue to negotiate on the Build Back Better bill.

  • You can contact your Members of Congress, via Greenpeace’s campaign, to demand they include bold measures to end fossil fuel racism in this historic legislative package.

  • Another group, Build Back Fossil Free, has another petition you can sign. It asks President Biden to be “bold in the pursuit of climate, racial, and economic justice.”

Photo by Jolanda Kirpensteijn on Unsplash

3. Support Indigenous Climate Action. Indigenous communities have both a deep connection with the earth and effective strategies for fighting climate change. A report published in the fall of 2021 by the Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN) and Oil Change International (OCI) outlines the success of Indigenous-led resistance to fossil fuel projects in North America. Over the past ten years, their effortshave “stopped or delayed an amount of greenhouse gas pollution equivalent to at least one-quarter of annual U.S. and Canadian emissions.”

The UNFCC acknowledges that “Indigenous peoples must be a part of the solution to Climate Change” and established the Local Communities and Indigenous Peoples Platform (LCIPP) in 2015. EIN and five other environmental groups have also called on President Biden to make environmental justice a key part of the Build Better Act. We can both follow their guidance and support their work directly, by joining them in their protests and/or donating to them. Other indigenous groups working on environmental issues include:

Photo by Unseen Histories on Unsplash

4. Engage Politically. If we are going to have environmental justice, we need to elect leaders who will support everyone voting, will advocate for good policies that benefit communities most affected by the climate crisis, and will enact environmental justice and climate legislation. You can:

  • Support Voting Rights. This article has lots of information on where to donate money to support voting rights. You can also contact your Senators to ask them to support the Freedom To Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. The Center for Common Ground has a tool that will help you call, write, or tweet them.

  • Campaign and Vote for Environmental Leaders. To enact legislation that will create environmental justice and significant climate action, we need elected officials who will go to bat for bold action in 2022 and beyond. The League of Conservation Voters and Give Green advocate for voting rights and highlight candidates running for election leaders who are environmental champions. Check out who is running in your U.S. district.

Photo by Elissa Garcia on Unsplash

5. Give Time and Money to BIPOC-Led Environmental Justice Groups. Support them in speaking up for environmental justice by offering your time and money. Some organizations to connect with include:

Photo by Rod Long on Unsplash

In this week where we honor Martin Luther King Jr, ...

What environmental justice actions will you commit to taking now?

How will you be loyal to humankind this year?

Thanks for all you do.



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