Urban Environmentalism

It doesn’t immediately come to mind – not when we usually think of vast forests at risk, the shrinking beaches/rising oceans axis, plus the gazillion acres of row crops used to feed us and our cows or grow transportation fuel(!) as the case may be. But, as usual, the cities are where the action is:

It’s the environmental movement’s own inconvenient truth, and it has tragic consequences. Blacks die from asthma twice as often as whites, and have higher cancer mortality rates than any other group. Nearly 30 million Latinos — 72 percent of the US Latino population — live in places that don’t meet US air pollution standards. Native American homes lack clean water at almost 10 times the national rate.

As a chilling reminder, this week marks the fourth year since Hurricane Katrina ripped through the Gulf Coast, leaving behind it a path of destruction that decimated poor and minority neighborhoods. Many Americans bore witness to the sad truth that the people hit hardest in my hometown of New Orleans were from the city’s poorest neighborhoods, and it remains a tragic example of how our most vulnerable populations often bear the burden of our worst environmental threats.

That’s EPA chief Lisa Jackson making the case for the case for urban environmentalism to be made, and to be made more stridently, more passionately, more urgently. She leaves out a lot – transit, cities are not just about the poor – but tying environmentalism to social justice will be one of the more powerful cudgels to wield against the massive disinformation campaigns that will accompany attempts to pass climate change legislation. The healthcare debate is the warm-up. Wait until you see the kinds of stupid demagoguery that is on the way: Inflated tax numbers, telling you not to let the government get between you and your driveway or whatever… it will be humbling, but should be taken as a precursor (the forced humility that would be part and parcel to resource scarcity). But, on the upside, it should be open season for mockery. So Python up.

Opponents of climate change legislation are on the wrong side of the issue, and hence, of history – I know, I also sense a pattern. The sleazy tactics are already wearing thin, but this should be taken not as a reason to slack off but as notice to become more emboldened, more explicit about what is at stake. Read about it, learn more, sharpen your points for whenever this comes up with friends, family or at the post, because opportunities to confront bizarre notions will be on the rise. Green means fecund.