Honoring Dr. King's legacy by bringing the power of our voices and action to tackle climate change

MLK and Climate - Hip Hop Caucus Graphic.jpg

Image from Hip Hop Caucus

On this important anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, Rev. Lennox Yearwood of the Hip Hop Caucus will issue a critical call for climate action and justice at the Historically Black College and University Student Climate Change Conference in New Orleans. We all need to respond to Rev. Yearwood’s call to move beyond fossil fuels and “break the silence.” We already see how powerful the voice of people is in bringing out in the open things that the fossil fuel industry would rather keep hidden – such as the high cost to our health and environment of climate change. The public can be a catalyst for change when it calls for rejection of dirty fuels projects such as the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline or when it calls for new controls such as power plant carbon limits in the US or coal caps in China.  

Dirty energy carries a heavy toll for communities around the world who are also struggling for fairness, justice and peace. Take expansion of Canada’s tar sands which means devastation of First Nations lands and health with vast strip-mines, water and air pollution. Tar sands crude pipelines threaten spills of toxic diluted bitumen along their proposed routes from British Columbia, to New England to Nebraska. This is an especially current issue with raw tar sands crude flowing through neighborhoods in Arkansas where last Friday an Exxon tar sands pipeline ruptured. And the damage doesn’t stop at pipelines: refining tar sands is an added burden to nearby communities – often exactly those communities who are already disproportionately harmed by industrial pollution.  The Keystone XL tar sands pipeline would bring diluted bitumen to the Gulf Coast refineries for processing and export with those communities bearing all the risk. Finally, the worsening of climate change that will be caused by production and use of tar sands hurts health and communities around the world. There is no justification for this dirty industry to continue expanding.

In the United States, we see across the board how climate pollution is hurting the health of our children through increased asthma and hurting the health of our communities with extreme weather events such as floods, droughts, and violent storms. This underlines the urgency for solutions such as clean energy alternatives, putting limits on carbon pollution from power plants, and rejecting dirty fuels starting with denial of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. As Maria Cardona said at the recent Washington, D.C. Forward on Climate Rally “on climate change, Amigos, I have no doubt that with your commitment, your energy, your heart and soul, Si Se Puede.”

Communities around the world that are feeling the bite of climate change and fossil fuel pollution are also seeing a public push to take action and move to clean energy. Just look at China where record high levels of air pollution in Beijing show us the problems with delay in tackling our dependence on fossil fuels. China also shows us how a strong public voice of outrage and call for action can get things moving in the right direction. The government is moving forward with stricter air pollution standards, but they can do more. NRDC has been advocating for a strong, binding, enforceable cap on coal consumption in China.The same needs to happen at the global level and part of that starts with the need to stop international funding of dirty energy. This week, nearly 60 development, environment, faith-based, human rights, and community groups stressed in a letter to the World Bank that energy investment around the world needs to stop making the climate crisis and its impact on vulnerable communities worse. World Bank President Dr. Jim Yong Kim himself has spoken repeatedly about the damages that climate change will inflict on our children and grandchildren and the poorest throughout the world. Yet acknowledgement without action is not be enough.

The more we raise our voices and shine a spotlight on acts of environmental injustice, the harder it is for the industry to maintain its protective shroud of silence. So let’s join Rev. Yearwood and follow the example of Dr. King. Tackling climate change is the challenge of our time. It is time to speak out and demand cleaner, fairer and safer solutions that provide us with the energy and transportation we need without the risk to our health, children and futures that fossil fuels and climate change bring.

Rev Yearwood’s speech will be livestreamed here: www.hiphopcaucus.org/April4

April 4, 2013, starting at 7pm EST

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