Our Home is On Fire
Brittany: Blher podcast takes on the world one social issue at a time highlighting the perspectives of two young black professional women. We cover everything from politics, law, religion, pop culture, and the day to day we faced through storytelling and discussion between Kelly Jeanine and myself. Brittany, in today's episode we are discussing the climate crisis and how it impacts people of color specifically.
Kelly Jeanine: So I do want to give a disclaimer that we are going to go as deep as we can, but this topic can go really, really deep in terms of science, in terms of every part of it. So just think of this as part one, but I just wanted to start with some numbers. Again, there's way more statistics out there, but these are some that caught my attention. So data from NASA has gravity and recovery. Climate experiment showed that Greenland lost an average of 286 billion tons of ice per year between 1993 and 2006 and the Atlanta ant article Los 127 billion tons of ice per year during the same time period. So that the rate of Antarctica losing ice mass has tripled within the last decade. The global sea level Rose about eight inches in the last century. And that rate in the last two decades has doubled and has been accelerating from that every year.
Kelly Jeanine: The amount of carbon dioxide absorbed by the upper layer of the ocean is increasing by about 2 billion tons per year. The U N intergovernmental panel on climate change States that there will be a cascading number of troubling scenarios unless action is taken. And that includes droughts, floods, rising sea level heat and famine, and all of that is disastrous for populations, especially those and global urban areas when it comes to emissions related to food, meat and dairy have a big climate footprint. So meat production, meat production generates 14.5% of the total greenhouse gas emissions. So after that barrage of statistics, I'm just curious for you, Brittany, how much did you learn about climate change in like high school or college?
Brittany: I didn't learn about it in high school or college. Maybe it's dating me a little bit. I dunno, but I've, I mean, I knew about Al Gore, that's where I learned about, learned about Al Gore. But like climate change was not really at the forefront of the issues that were discussed in my community. Among other things, I think, I think as well it happens a lot of times with a lot of minority communities as you have. Like the interests are in co are interconnected, but you're, there's so many other fights for like daily survival that like this one for whatever reason, was just not at the forefront of the list. And I think it's because a lot of times, even though you can see climate change readily now, it's not something that like maybe back then we always have the data on or that it was like instantly available. It still feels distant. Like if you don't get it together today, in 20 years, the world is dead and you're like, okay.
Kelly Jeanine: Yeah. I think for me the only way in which climate change really came up was related to like how winters were. And I remember like El Nino and LA Nina and all of those weather patterns being talked about as I was a kid. But it was very much like, it seemed far away. Like, Oh, El Nino is happening far away. How do you see, so now that you're older and what we see now, how do you feel like climate change impacts you? Like on a personal day to day basis, if at all?
Brittany: So I mean for me it has, it actually made me think a lot more about how much I consume whether it be like what I eat or what I wear or what I just use in my house. I will say that to be completely honest with you, a big reason why I decided to become kind of a Marie Kondo version of a minimalist is because of my thoughts about climate change and how like just consuming so many different things, particularly like plastic or just like taking up all this space and like really indulging in this American idea of like excess excessiveness was really not good for the environment and just not good. Practically speaking, like having that much waste. So it impacts me in my personal life, buying decisions and life decisions in that way. I think it also impacts me and really all of us in a very real way as it relates to our relationships with other people and their safety.
Brittany: The frequency of natural disasters having worked in spaces of law, that word was helped. We're helping people impacted the, are those natural disasters has really brought to the forefront how like the decisions that we make and the way that we shoot our planet speaks in large part to the way that we treat marginalized populations and how much we care about how well they're being fed, how much we care about the resources that they have available to them. Like just basic human resources like water and food. And so I think about it a lot and also because by nature of the work that I do, I am kind of forced to confront national security issues. And I think climate change, not just our security but like global security is probably like I would say if not the number one issue at a minimum, number two to like impact the way that it's going to impact the safety of people across the globe.
Kelly Jeanine: [Inaudible] No, that's all very true. Even just this past summer for me, I know you're talking about this, we were at, we're talking about just like running something very simple. Like people like to run in the morning and you're kind of asking how much I run or when I go outside. And I remember I was like actually the number of unhealthy air quality warnings has been through the roof this summer. I would say the majority of days, the summer I haven't unhealthy air quality alert. So therefore at least for me and my particular health, I typically don't go outside when it reaches a certain threshold. And the how that just even impacts something so simple like wanting to go on a morning run. So like you mentioned the main people impacted by climate change most often of course are people that live in non white countries and people of color today when this wreck episode is recorded, one of the biggest issues kind of at the forefront of this topic is actually the four the fires happening in the Amazon.
Kelly Jeanine: So the statistics might be different by the time we released this episode, but as of today, the number of fires in the Brazilian Amazon in 2019 so far has been 76,000. I remember when I heard that number, I was like, that can't be right. Like I looked at other sites and, but no. So the Brazilian national Institute for space and research has been tracking the fire activity in the Amazon and it's just now starting to get some international attention as far as what that means. So the reason that's important is that the Amazon rainforest is home to 20% of the world's oxygen. So a nickname for the Amazon rainforest is often like the lungs of the world and it accounts for 10% of the biodiversity in the world. And that means like the types of plants and the types of animals. That's how diverse that forest is and how important it is.
Kelly Jeanine: It's also home for a lot of indigenous communities. So the Brazilian president, both Sinero, which in a lot of ways is kind of like the Brazilian Trump has relaxed enforcement of laws against deforestation and encouraged mining and farming and that affects indigenous communities and territories. And that's happened quite rapidly since his inauguration. And the reason that these fires are happening is because farmers are wanting to clear land for cattle. So there's actually indigenous groups that are formally mobilizing against this. The indigenous groups have been appealing to rights for indigenous peoples UN to take action against these fires because to them in a letter they said that this is an act, a genocide and it is calling for their extinction. So, so what is happening is going to lead to their extinction. And an interesting nuance to that is one of the calls to actions to people that a lot of these indigenous groups are saying is to consume less beef. Because that is one of the main reasons that some of this cattle is being bred.
Brittany: Yeah. On the, if the recent coverage on the FYS and the Amazon has been actually like a very, it's been a very, very sticky subject for me. And I think it's because in many ways I think it's like this very, very perfect example of the intersection of like poverty and climate change and like how economics and protecting our planet are not separate issues. And the reason I say that is because like a lot of, even though, you know, we here in the U S and like other places disagree with the decisions that the president of Brazil has made. The reality is that there are people in Brazil who voted for this guy. And the reason being is that they thought in many ways like we don't have the economic opportunity that we want. And like we have all this land and like the way that Boston narrow has kinda categorized it has been like all these Western countries are trying to tell us how to use our resources and how to protect our resources.
Brittany: But like when it boils down to it, like they aren't the ones here who need the money to kind of support themselves and their families. So it's been a really interesting, it's been interesting to watch also. I think the New York times they put out an article not long ago, kind of tracking the social media responses to the buyers and they really highlighted that a lot of the photographs that were being used that kind of inflamed and ignited people were not from current burnings in the Amazon. They were from like times past. And so I think like that's just another, and I mean, I got caught up in it too, but that's just another example of how, I don't want to call it fake news, but the spreading of misinformation is so easy and like this interconnected web of a world that we have now. And while the cause of like keeping the Amazon alive and like keeping that biodiversity there, like for keeping it a lush place that can help us like through this process is very important. It's also important that like people in Brazil have jobs and are able to eat into live. So we have to think about ways to combat them at the same time and, and not to separate them and see them as two separate issues when they're very, very deeply interconnected.
Kelly Jeanine: And that's a really good point. So another way that climate change is impacting people of color specifically is that just based off geography? Most of the Island countries that are either like African or Polynesian or Asian that are impacted by climate change are the islands that have the lowest amount of greenhouse admission. So the people being impacted the most in a negative way by climate change are the ones that are living the best in terms of doing their part for climate change, which is really unfair. And all of those people are people of color. So one Island that is just an Excel map shot that of, of other islands that are facing a similar problem where the MALDI eaves, I'm solo laying islands, like the MALDI eaves have contributed to the least amount of greenhouse emissions. Like we said, bear the most effected by rising sea levels and pollution.
Kelly Jeanine: So not only does this impact things like their access to clean water as that continues to happen, it also means that there will be a point in time in which an entire nation of people will be displaced and needs to find a home somewhere else. So if you think about the ramifications of that from a cultural perspective, from a historical perspective of just being tied to the land of your people from the perspective of like economics and where do we go? And then just tying into the larger immigration conversation where these Western worlds that are, these Western countries that are having these really volatile immigration issues right now, or are these people on both sides and these people are coming in and taking our jobs when in reality there's a cycle of the Western countries contributing to the reason why these people are displaced in the first place.
Kelly Jeanine: So it's really just a vicious cycle and they don't often have as much clout on a Nash international political world stage to even like influence these Western countries to care about their little Island starting to sink. Another thing to bring up is also islands like Puerto Rico, where they're often in the path of hurricanes and superstorms where they've also been economically disenfranchised by Western society. But they're often the ones that are negatively impacted by the storms that are, are getting worse as a result of climate change. And then their access to relief fund is in limbo. So if you think about all of the drama that happened with hurricane Maria and Puerto Rico in the United States and Trump's rhetoric around that, that's just a prime example of, again, people of color losing because of the actions of these other powers that be. I also saw that Indonesia was moving its capital to Borneo because of the amount of pollution in their current capital.
Kelly Jeanine: So these are just, again, small snapshots of these countries and communities that are impacted by climate change in ways where it's really out of their control and it's up to the Western countries to do their part and stop. And again, people of color are also more likely to live in cities where when those natural disasters hit, if you think of even like hurricane Katrina and new Orleans and the neighborhoods that were the most face, the most destruction from that, and had the hardest time rebuilding, those were the communities of color. So as you listened to all of that, Brittany, what do you think it will take for society as an international whole to listen to these communities around the world that are being impacted by climate change and all often live their lives in a way that's conserving the land in a good way?
Brittany: I don't think that change would really come about in the way that it needs to until it really, really starts impacting money a lot more meaning that businesses, organizations, governments can no longer afford to ignore the realities of it. And I pray to God that that doesn't happen at the, at the hands of the extinction of a group of people or like mass devastation. But I think unfortunately this world runs on money and so like it's not going to, and I may be like very pessimistic of me, but I just feel like it's not going to change. I mean even even here in the U S like you don't have to, you don't have to go outside of the country to really like realize like how, how much of an impact climate change is having on people of color. Like the NAACP, they published a report like some years ago, I think it was NAACP that really, really discussed the fact that like people of color, black people especially tend to live in places where the air quality is significantly lower than it is in other parts of the country and they're more likely to live next to waste sites and all these other places.
Brittany: I mean, if you think about this is may or may not be a climate change issue to you, but if you think about like with hurricane Katrina, that people who are most impacted by that were people of color. So I think like it's not, it's not something that's going to change until it becomes financially feasible for it to change. Meaning, and that could mean several things. That could mean that companies realize that they're losing billions and billions of dollars. You know, as a result of climate change, it can mean that people stop supporting these organizations and these companies that don't think of climate change in the same breath, while these disasters happen and some will lose money, there will be also people who make money. As a result of it, if that makes sense.
Kelly Jeanine: Well, I think you're helping us transition into the next point of discussion, which is the, the government and national side of how, how countries run and how it's impacted by climate change. So there's lots of reports and I think after I give my spiel, Brittany, this is really where your expertise comes in. So climate change has the potential to essentially de-stabilize lots of countries around the world. And that's in terms of like security of food, water and energy systems and access to those things. So in a worst case scenario, money and power will exaggerate the gap. As rich families gain access to resources like water and food. So if you think about how there could be private water companies, like food is often a company owned a resource. That's where we get our food from, from companies that are family or private owned. So, so as this issue continues, rich people will essentially continue to amass this resource to where whether or not poor people are able to get food or water is going to come from whether or not these rich people operate in a way that they allow them to.
Kelly Jeanine: And when people start to unfortunately have those negative ramifications and populations start to die, it will be the poor populations that die first. Women and children are also impacted by this the most. Because when we talk about the future of forced displacement where people are needing to leave their homes because of climate change there is an increased risk for violence and economic ruin. So there has been studies that have seen that the more lack of food and water increased the, the heart of that is the more violence and aggression that occurs within a society,
Brittany: Which is normal, I think. I think that makes complete,
Kelly Jeanine: Yes it does. So in your exposure to politics, how have you seen climate change play into global tensions and political issues?
Brittany: I will say that I think that we're getting to a place in politics where like climate change deniers can no longer like feasibly exist, like they do exist. But I think like that component of things is going to be phased out like in a fairly recent amount of time. And I will say that like on an upside, I mean, granted, you know, I can only speak to like us politics. I don't foresee them being able to ignore the issue for much longer because while it might not necessarily be costing like the private sector as much, it's costing the government billions, so like it's not sustainable. And we've seen like in with the recent G seven summit and just internationally in a lot of different ways, maybe not so much in like China but we've seen that the topic of climate change has been a very big conversation among powerful Western countries, including France and Germany.
Brittany: The U S has had the conversation as well. Although like the conversations that we're having today are drastically different than the conversation we were having four years ago, five years ago in the political space. It's not something that's going to be avoidable. To me the issue I guess like on an international scale like with climate change or with like really like harnessing support for like global policies to address it is the idea and the reality that each country office operates as a sovereign and like we really can't tell any other country what to do and how to do it. And to be honest with you, a lack of regulations and safeguards that are beneficial for the environment has economically benefited most if not all Americans, especially if you buy things made in China. Figuring out a way, again, getting back to the money to make that feasible for like politicians and for the global leaders. Like that's really what it is. But I don't think they will be in a space much longer where people will be able to deny his existence, be able to like say so with a straight face that they aren't going to make political and governmental change surrounding it.
Kelly Jeanine: I agree. Which is why I find it very fascinating that that is the current stance of the Republican party. Because to me if I was on their side, in my mind I would think if we would just admit climate change is real, if we would just, you know, start to put some smart policies into place, I think there is a whole voter group that they would have better access to.
Brittany: Oh yeah. I mean they get, they can, I mean you can do that with a lot of different things. Even if you like re like articles have been coming out about how the Republican party says at least that they are trying to increase voter turnout and like women in their, in their offices of power and like what they're doing notes and complete like contrast that is like, yeah.
Kelly Jeanine: So you hinted at a really key topic I wanted to bring up today. Indigenous communities, let me say indigenous cultures are a very key group of people that can positively impact the issue, climate change. But there's also another group that has been playing a vital role in climate change that often gets overlooked and that's black women. So I read an article about how black women and communities in black communities are not new when it comes to fighting climate change in Brittany. When you're kind of sharing your story earlier about the different unhealthy things that you may have seen growing up in your community. I actually think that a lot of those communities are unknowingly battling with things that are under the umbrella of things impacted by climate change and actively fighting for that. So when we talk about healthy environment black, and like you were saying, a lot of black communities struggle with things like air quality with access to clean water.
Kelly Jeanine: Like Flint is a great example and struggling with things like food access and food insecurity and also just like the negative ramifications of the environments that they live in. So I, I did read on a study that was published in the New York times that our, sorry, was published in scientific American that African Americans living in Los Angeles are twice as likely to die at a heat wave than any other city residents. So a lot of this climate change does directly impact black people. So an example of a positive thing Dr. Beverly Wright is a professor of sociology and then she has been training leaders from HBCU, specifically on environmental justice and climate change. So one of her noted projects was her students assisting in hurricane Katrina in way of researching climate impact on vulnerable communities. And she's also had exposure to the Paris climate accord. So there are black women that are actively leading the way in terms of climate change our climate justice. And I think that's really cool to continue to see an amplify that work that's already been happening, but we just haven't always thought of it. In the terms of climate change. How do you view change and proximity to your blackness or social justice issues?
Brittany: I'm gonna answer that question but before I answer it, I just want to say something that you said earlier about like indigenous communities really be on the forefront of this as well. I just want to say that you guys long after like if we get through this and we're going to look back and we are really, I mean there's so much to thank them for our rail already but we're really going to have to thank the indigenous community for their resilience and their persistence and fighting this issue on several fronts like long after the cameras are gone long after before they even got there like they are in court and a lot of those groups are doing the hard work to protect the lands that had been sacred to their families for so long and that ultimately benefit us to prevent these pipelines and this spreading of like natural gas into water sources and other things like they are doing the work long after it has like moved on from the news cycle and like at some point we are really going to like look back and have to thank them for their resilience and their persistence on this issue when nobody was paying attention.
Brittany: So that's just my plug for that. But as climate change relates to the proximity, like to my blackness and how it intersects with my interest in social justice, I see a lot of the a lot of the issues a per specifically food security like you are speaking of being deeply tied to climate change. On the one hand there's so much food or so much meat and dairy Ravi that has become, that has been made less expensive because of like mass production and like these huge farming procedures and those meats not healthy as they may be, are kind of pumped into black communities and we're eating them and it's because we can't afford them and it's just kind of like becomes a cycle. And so the lacks of regulation, do you lack the lack of, I want to say hampering down on like these industries impacts the health of the environment and it also impacts the quite literally the physical health of black people. If you can make that connection. I view it, I mean obviously I knew climate change is very, very close. I mean to my blackness, it impacts our everyday life and my, in my everyday life I'm a black woman.
Kelly Jeanine: No, I think that's true. Yeah. I think what I was getting at is that climate change is a black issue. So I think climate change can be a very overwhelming topic because you're often left with this feeling like, what can I do? Like recycling my little pop bottles isn't gonna really do anything. I think there are ways that we can impact climate change. Some of the biggest battles that we face are with these large corporations, whether it's the meat industry, whether it's the oil industry, whether it's large manufacturing buildings, those are really where the space is that we need to focus on. But how can I as an individual impact that? So one is of to vote, so not only vote for people that have climate change as an active part of their platform, but even once they're an office, continue to advocate for climate change issues so that they can continue to take that upwards and vote in policy and fight for that.
Kelly Jeanine: I also would say that veganism is a strong way in which that you can help combat climate change. I think there are ways you can ethically eat meat, so focusing on like local sourced from an actual local farm is one way that you can still incorporate meat in your diet. But like you said, anytime you're buying into that mass produced cheap meat, you're kind of inadvertently helping the industry that's contributing to the climate crisis and then continuing to amplify, continue to amplify the black women and the indigenous communities that are actively making change in their communities to be healthier or know a ways in which we can better approach how we take care of the earth and doing things like limiting you supply mastic. For me personally, I've recently, as of last week, stop using plastic water bottles and I'm only doing boxed water now or glass most grocery stores, so there's like, I think it's just called the box water company is starting to be pretty mainstream, but can you buy it in bulk?
Kelly Jeanine: That, I don't know. I think glass is a good alternative if you're trying to have like a larger container of water and just filling that up or of course just unfortunately some of it comes down to like water access at home, but in terms of light being always on the go, always traveling, buying a water bottle is just a very common and easy thing to do when you're always out and about. So when possible me buying boxed water, which is just like, I don't know, the same size as a bottle of water, but it's cardboard or paper. To me that's been just a small choice that in my lifestyle cuts down on the number of plastic I use.
Brittany: So I've definitely started to like eliminate like the use of plastic, like kind of in my house specifically as it relates to tub aware, I try to use really only glass, which to be honest with you is better anyway because glass, I don't know if you guys know this, but glass preserves your food a lot longer than plastic will. Other than that, I'm not like completely VE in maybe one day I aspire, but certainly in my food choices, like I don't eat meat every day and I'm very conscious about that. Like even though I haven't eliminated it completely, I at least want to make an effort to make sure I'm not eating it as much as I was in time to pass. I have started, if you live in a city where this is an option, I've started using more environmentally friendly means of transportation.
Brittany: I walk a lot of places now or I'd take the Metro to and from work. Actually yesterday I walked like seven miles, like just like living my life and it's helping your, for you body obviously, but it's also really good for the environment because you're not contributing and driving a car when you don't have to. On an average week, I literally, I drive my car maybe once. So if you have the opportunity to live in a place where you can do that, that's also like a really good way to kind of contribute outside of that. I'm always like a very pro if you can grow your own food type of person. We had a garden when I was growing up and it was some of the best food I've ever had. I have tried on several occasions to recreate an apartment garden, but my dog is not having it.
Brittany: I'm, for those of you who don't have that issue out, it's something that I would recommend just because I think it's empowering to be in control of your food source, to see something grow up from scratch, to know that you can eat it and you don't have to buy it from somebody else, but to know that you can literally sustain to sustain yourself if everything were to go to hell. But I mean otherwise I would just say like keep pushing and keep fighting for these companies to be responsible and the way that they are treating our planet. Like we all have a right to this place. We all have a right to demand it that is treated well and monitor your own neighborhood. There's a tool that the EPA uses called EJA screen, which is like environmental justice screen where you can actually go online and type in your address and everything and you can see the environmental impacts in your own neighborhood. I'm not going to lie to you some of the data I am not super familiar with on like how to read it, but there's a lot of information on there. No to tell you a lot about the area that you're living in, in the environment that you're around and issues that are prevalent there. Keep an eye on just your, your neighborhood, what you're doing, what you, what's there and you know where you can make a difference. Do your best to do so.
Kelly Jeanine: Yes, and that local neighborhood. So my mom works a lot with this topic as far as like local, these source food and just buying local. Even if you're buying local chicken or local beef that is just so much better in so many ways, and supporting local farmers support getting local produce from farmer's markets, which is another reason why that conversation about snap and food stamps, being able to work at farmer's markets is so key as well. So if you know of any green companies that you personally support, if you have any hacks on how you're living more environmentally conscious, let us know. We always start looking for new tips. As always, you can visit us at [inaudible] dot com or follow us on Twitter and Instagram at where podcast. Thank you for listening. [inaudible].