Black folks and people of color make up 38 percent of our nation’s population but with only 12 percent are in leadership positions in environmental organizations.  Now, if you think that’s just a Black problem, think again.  It’s now become one of our nation’s biggest dilemma, under our current administration.

Black inner-city communities have historically and significantly had a higher concentration of environmental hazards and degradation, from toxic-releasing companies that spill dangerous levels of pollution into the neighborhoods, causing wide-spread stress, morbidity, and mortality while keeping economic investment, political influence, and social capital, school performance and community pride down.

Now, America is seeing that this problem is not just a Black problem but an America problem.

With our current administration dismantling the Environmental Protection Agency-EPA and going full steam ahead on the Dakota Pipeline project, White middle-class America is now in fear of what’s been going on historically in Black communities because it will soon be their reality.

White America, until recently, thought that they were immune to environmental hazards and degradations within their neighborhoods. They are now coming to realize that their clean water and air is a thing of the past.

Environmental organizations, such as the Maryland League of Conservation Voters know that to create environmental solutions, organizations need to hear from Black America in these environmental polluted communities to better craft environmental policies.

Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) are ramping up their environmental science programs. Currently there are 24 HBCU’s that offer five-star environmental programming and four-star in teaching.  University of Maryland Eastern Shore is rated one of the best environmental program in the United States.

America’s worst corporate environmental offenders are now the heads of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)- Scott Pruitt, former Attorney General of Oklahoma, Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, former chief executive of ExxonMobil and Energy Secretary of Energy, Rick Perry, former governor of Texas.

This three-ring-circus of polluters, are pushing full steam ahead for private gain while the costs of the environmental abuse is shared among all of Americans.  The estimated costs that the public bears from climate, local environmental issues and health is roughly $360 billion to $1 trillion annually.

Many thanks to the Obama administration for tightening restrictions on carbon dioxide emissions, creating over 35 percent reduction in emissions.  Another good thing about those carbon restrictions; new coal facilities can be built only if they capture and store 30 percent of their emissions.

America’s environmental justice will ultimately fall in the hands of environmental Black intellectuals coming from our HBCU’s.  After all, today’s Black environmental students are tomorrow’s leaders in this epic struggle towards sustainability and environmental freedom.

Cathy Allen is an award-winning Urban Environmentalist, the co-creator of G.R.A.S.S. (Growing Resources After Sowing Seed) as well as Chair of the “Grow-It Eat It” campaign. G.R.A.S.S. is an environmental entrepreneurial nonprofit program based on the fundamentals of gardening, agriculture and ecology. In conjunction with Baltimore City Public Schools, Allen’s campaign has planted over a half-million trees on the lawns of Baltimore City public schools.

Cathy Allen

AFRO Science Writer