Black Lives Matter: Let’s Talk About Environmental Justice 

Environmental justice for all.
[Leah Hartung/Canva image]
By Leah Hartung

For environmentalism to be successful and complete, it must include social justice. Environmental degradation and climate change do not affect the population equally: The brunt of the burden falls on marginalized communities. With the Black Lives Matter movement sweeping the nation, sparked by the murder of George Floyd, it is necessary for environmentalists to discuss the physical as well as the social environment for Black people in the United States.

The social environment for Black people in America has long been a painful one. America has a long history of police brutality disproportionately affecting Black people. In 1927 and 1928, Black residents of Chicago constituted 30 percent of the victims of police killings, even though they only made up 5 percent of the area’s population, according to an Illinois Crime Survey cited in Smithsonian Magazine. Today, about 1 in 1,000 Black men in the United States die at the hands of the police, according to the Los Angeles Times. Black women are 1.4 times more likely than white women to be killed by the police (Los Angeles Times). Black men, according to the Washington Post, are 2.5 times more likely than their white counterparts to die during an encounter with the police, adjusting for the age of the person shot, whether the person suffered from mental illness, whether the person was attacking a police officer, and for the crime rate in the neighborhood where the shooting occurred. 

The high rate of unarmed Black Americans killed by the police causes more incidents of depression, stress, and other mental health issues among Black people, even if they did not have a direct connection to the Black Americans who lost their lives, according to a study by Boston University’s School of Health and University of Pennsylvania.

Yet it is not only the social environment that hurts black people in America. The physical environment that Black communities live in also continues to cause them harm at disproportionate rates. Black Americans face a 54 percent higher health burden from air pollution compared to the overall population, according to a study by the Environmental Protection Agency, which cited historical racism and economic inequality as major factors for the disparity. Facilities emitting particulate pollution are more likely to be in Black communities, causing Black Americans to experience more asthma, a greater likelihood of heart attacks, and premature death. According to an analysis in the New England Journal of Medicine, Black Americans are 3 times more likely to die from exposure to air pollutants than white Americans.

The higher burden of air pollution on Black communities is particularly dangerous during this pandemic. A preliminary nationwide study from Harvard University found exposure to high levels of air pollution correlated with higher mortality rates from COVID-19. This finding, coupled with health disparities and unequal access to care in Black communities, helps explain why Black residents only account for 29% of Chicago’s population—yet 52% of those testing positive and 72% of those who had died as of April 6, 2020, were Black (WBEZ). 

Additionally, because of Black communities’ fewer resources, economic disenfranchisement, and unstable housing, they are more vulnerable to climate change as it intensifies natural disasters such as heat waves, flooding, and hurricanes, said Janaya Khan, co-founder of Black Lives Matter Toronto, in The Root. Climate change will further erode the disparity between Black and white communities.

Let us take this moment to reflect on how the environment in America is not the same for all of its citizens.

Leah Hartung is from Libertyville, Illinois, and is a rising junior at Emory University (Atlanta, Georgia) studying environmental science.

Free COVID Testing Station Opens in Waukegan

Illinois National Guard officer explains COVID-19 self-test
In an Illinois National Guard video posted on Facebook, an officer at the Waukegan testing station explains how to do the COVID-19 self-test.

A new drive-through COVID-19 testing site opened today at the vehicle emissions testing station at 2161 Northwestern Ave., Waukegan (southeast corner of Sunset and Northwestern avenues).  

Testing at this location will continue until further notice. The site is expected to be open seven days per week.

Testing facility details

  • Opening day: Sunday, May 3, 2020
  • Hours: 7 days a week, 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. or until 500 tests are completed
  • Location: 2161 Northwestern Ave., Waukegan
  • Cost: Free
  • Test results: within 4-7 days
  • More details in English
  • Mas detalles en Español

Illinois National Guard soldiers will conduct tests.

Links to government websites, news articles, and audio resources: CORONAVIRUS/COVID-19: Helpful Resources

CPLC Updates Coronavirus Resource List

[Gerd Altmann/Pixabay photo]
These continue to be challenging times. We have been social distancing and isolating for the safety of the most vulnerable in our communities since March 21. Now Gov. J.B. Pritzker has extended Illinois’ stay-at-home order through May 30.

An important modifications to the order will take effect May 1: People will be required to wear a face covering or mask when in any public space where they can’t maintain a 6-foot distance from others.

We have updated our list of links to government websites, news articles, and audio resources: CORONAVIRUS/COVID-19: Helpful Resources

CPLC Offers Coronavirus Resource List

Coronovirus
[Tumisu/Pixabay photo]
These are challenging times. We are encouraged to maintain social distance and isolate for the safety of the most vulnerable in our communities, yet we must keep in mind that the very actions that help reduce the spread of disease make it harder for those on the margins to access food, shelter, and healthcare.

As people committed to justice for all people, we must find ways to prevent the spread of disease while also making sure that children who rely on school breakfast and lunch have access to nutritious food when schools are closed, those who depend on mass housing for shelter have a place to stay, and those who do not drive access the supplies they need.

Maintaining a safe physical distance does not mean complete social disconnection. We are called to use the tools we have to support and care for each other in times of crisis.

One such tool is reliable information. To help you make sense of all of this and get up-to-date information, we compiled a list of links to government websites, news articles, and audio resources: CORONAVIRUS/COVID-19: Helpful Resources

We will update this list as appropriate.