They Can't Breathe!

Matthew Freeman

Sept. 9, 2020

CPR Board President Rob Verchick is out with a new episode of the Connect the Dots podcast, the first in a new season focused on climate justice. As he puts it, "We’re looking at people living in the crosshairs of climate change, those disproportionately carrying the burden of the world and suffering on a daily basis."

As part of Rob's exploration of the issue in this episode, we hear from three experts on the topic, each with a different vantage point. CPR Member Scholar Maxine Burkett is a Professor of Law at the William S. Richardson School of Law, University of Hawai'i at Manoa. Leslie Fields is the Sierra Club's Senior Director of Environmental Justice and Healthy Communities. Mychal Johnson is co-founder of South Bronx Unite, a coalition of residents, organizations, and allies confronting policies that perpetuate harm and building support for viable community-driven solutions in the South Bronx.

Over the course of the episode, we hear Johnson describe the many ways that pollution is foisted off onto low-income communities – industrial facilities on their doorstep, highways running through their heart, truck routes that bring smog-emitting tractor-trailers puffing down their streets. Fields traces the history of environmental injustice, noting that colonialism was often about extracting resources from distant communities and degrading their natural resources, health, and livelihoods along the way.

Burkett observes that "it would be hard to imagine this kind of devastation to the global climate without a deep element of racism…. There are these places that we’ve decided are disposable, and the people that inhabit them are disposable. In places like Port Arthur, Texas, places like Cancer Alley in Louisiana, innumerable places in indigenous lands that have been used for extraction of fossil fuels and transportation of fossil fuels. The core point is that those 'sacrifice zones' are as old as our industrial economy…. We've sacrificed the livelihoods and sustenance and lifestyles of a number of communities in expansion of the carbon economy."

You can listen right now or download it for later, here.

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