Home Election 2020 OPINION: Democrats Discuss ー Environmental justice is necessary

OPINION: Democrats Discuss ー Environmental justice is necessary

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Katie Nolan is the Ohio University College Democrats membership director. She is a junior studying environmental studies with a minor in political science. The following article reflects the opinion and views of the author and does not present the thoughts of the Ohio University College Democrats. 

This is a submitted column, and please note that these views and opinions do not reflect those of The New Political. 

Environmental awareness has escalated exponentially over the past few years. The urgency of the climate crisis has brought the discussion to the forefront of the media. Public figures like Greta Thunberg challenge the actions of previous generations and assert the importance of immediate climate action. 

They argue that the younger generation needs to be protected from the harm that climate change will inevitably produce. However, one specific topic that has not been in the spotlight as much is one of the biggest issues of all: environmental justice. 

Historically, low-income and minority communities are much more likely to have higher exposure to air pollution, lead poisoning in children, effects of climate change and water contamination. They also live in close proximity to landfills, industrial facilities and hazardous waste sites. 

Environmental racism cannot be ignored in this conversation. Long-term discrimination and racism is the reason why racial disparity runs rampant in these ways today. It is crucial to address this reality. 

It is important that the Democratic nominee for the 2020 election will not only be able to face issues surrounding climate change but also be able to make climate change a priority. Elizabeth Warren introduced an extensive plan on Oct. 9 that would attempt to tackle the giant problem that environmental injustice is. 

So far, the only other primary candidates to introduce similar plans centered around solely environmental justice are Kamala Harris and Cory Booker. 

Harris’ plan is titled the Climate Equity Act and was co-authored by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Booker’s plan is encompassed with the Environmental Justice Act of 2019. As a leader for the Green New Deal, Bernie Sanders also commits to helping frontline communities recover from climate impacts and to further prepare for the future. 

As the Democratic primary progresses, it is imperative that candidates clarify the importance of environmental justice in the coming years. With the increasingly dangerous effects of climate change escalating, there is no predicting exactly what kind of devastating impacts will be seen within these communities. 

While legislators prepare for an era of climate action, we cannot forget about those who have it the hardest. 

We cannot forget about those are disproportionately impacted. We cannot forget about the indigenous people of Standing Rock whose sacred land will be destroyed in the name of fossil fuel extraction. We cannot forget about Flint, Michigan, or those impacted by the California wildfires. We cannot forget about the one in 12 children in America who have asthma or the communities on the East Coast who will be displaced by rising sea levels within our lifetimes. 

There is too much risk involved with forgetting. The time to create a secure and reliable environmental justice legislation is now. 

A presidential candidate that does not show solidarity for environmental justice communities should not be considered for the highest office in this country. It’s unfortunate that the current president does not meet this criterion. That is why it is even more crucial to find a Democratic candidate who does. 

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