"I CHANGE by providing vulnerable communities with the tools and resources needed to address intensified threats they face due to climate change and institutional discrimination.”
—Marcus Franklin, Environment and Climate Justice Program Specialist, NAACP
I have worked in and studied various aspects of environmental science and sustainability since I was twelve. The result has been a love for nature, for the systems that drive life, and for exploration of the relationship between humans and nature, and humans and their environment.
My understanding of environmental and climate issues has been informed by a variety of fields and perspectives, including, ecosystem biology, renewable energy, sustainable housing and design, food security, international development, sustainable development, and education. For me, an underlying connection between these fields has been the right of individuals to the knowledge, resources, and positive outcomes of each. This sentiment is what drives my current work and how I address issues of climate change. I am an advocate for environmental and climate justice.
In preserving the earth, it is necessary to remedy existing and imminent injustices in the distribution of environmental costs, benefits, and conditions. All communities have the right to a safe, clean, and livable environment, including the means to maintain these conditions. Climate change is an environmental condition that demonstrates the broader social injustice imposed on marginalized communities.
Transformational changes that raise distinct ethical and procedural questions for decision-makers and move attention from the immediate causes of climate vulnerability to its structural root causes (i.e. social, cultural, and economic relationships and power hierarchies) are necessary. These changes serve to reduce social injustice and the impacts of climate change.
My work with the Environment and Justice Program of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) centers on strengthening the resilience of communities of color by: spreading information about the issues throughout the population; making options, knowledge, skills, and technology more accessible; cultivating political drive; spurring human and financial investment capital; and fortifying the capacity of community institutions.
At the NAACP we tackle these climate change issues and seek to:
1. Reduce harmful emissions, particularly greenhouse gasses: Combines action on shutting down coal plants at the local level with advocacy to strengthen development, monitoring, and enforcement of regulations at the federal, state, and local levels. This also includes a focus on corporate responsibility and accountability.
2. Advance energy efficiency and clean energy: Works at the state level on campaigns to pass renewable energy and energy efficiency standards while simultaneously working at the local level with small businesses, unions, and others on developing demonstration projects to ensure that communities of color are accessing revenue generation opportunities in the new energy economy, while providing safer, more sustainable mechanisms for managing energy needs for our communities and beyond.
3. Improve community resilience: Ensures that communities are equipped to engage in climate action planning that integrates policies and practices on advancing food justice, advocating for transportation equity and upholding civil and human rights in emergency management.
The effects of global climate change are universal. It impacts all organisms— humans, animals, and plants—as well as the land, water, and air we all rely on. But the impacts often fall disproportionately on the wellbeing of people of color, indigenous peoples, and low-income communities in the United States.
It is often forgotten that it is not enough to just have and secure environmental goods; there must also be secure access for all. This is seldom acknowledged. That needs to change.