Youth Activists Fight for Climate Justice

Press Release: June 10, 2003
Contact: Anjuli Gupta, Redefining Progress 510.444.3041 ext. 310

SUMMER CORPS FIGHTS FOR COMMUNITIES ON THE FRONTLINE OF THE EFFECTS OF CLIMATE CHANGE AND ITS INDUSTRIAL CAUSES

Various locations, USA. Communities threatened by the impacts of global warming have a new set of soldiers in their fight. The Climate Justice Corps, ten young organizers and researchers selected by the Environmental Justice and Climate Change Initiative (EJCC), will support communities across the continental United States and Alaska that are on the front line in the struggle against the political and industrial causes of global warming.

In Detroit, industrial polluters that contribute thousands of tons of carbon emissions to the atmosphere each year also contribute toxic pollutants that lead to rising rates of asthma and other health effects, which are in turn made worse by global warming. In San Antonio, where groundwater reserves have already been polluted by industry and military operations, the desertification of the Rio Grande corridor threatens an already scarce drinking water supply. Similar to many other environmental problems, these climate impacts are felt disproportionately in communities of color, often ignored by the political process. We must be aware and ask ourselves why people of color are placed in situations that contaminate them, exploit them and neglect them, says Ruth Buentello, a Climate Justice Corps member who will be working in her native San Antonio for the summer.

While Congress debates whether to take future action to slow climate change, communities around the country are feeling its effects now. Members of the Climate Justice Corps will work with eight of these communities on education campaigns, climate justice organizing, and research projects to improve the resources available to communities of color in fighting the disparate impacts of climate change. Local action is the global solution community empowerment is the greatest strength in combating the global threat of climate change, says Cindy Chang, who will be working on Northeast climate justice with EJCC member West Harlem Environmental Action.

Several corps members will work in indigenous communities in Alaska, Minnesota, and Arizona. Working with the Black Mesa Water Coalition, Wahleah Johns will spend this summer in her community on the Navajo-Hopi reservation in Arizona. My community is so much a part of the fossil fuel extraction that leads to climate changes because we live on lands that have huge coal deposits, says Johns. We need to empower our community to know that because we live on these natural resources we can make a difference for a cleaner and healthier world on both a local and a global level.

Two Corps members will be organizing younger, youth, in partnership with EJCC member Kids Against Pollution (KAP), coordinating a Climate Camp for a still younger generation of activists. We must not allow the current theft of environmental and social justice progress to disenfranchise our youth, who will inherit a legacy of good or bad policies,” said Christine Shahin, executive director of the muti-national youth network Kids Against Pollution, “Giving youth the skills to cope is a gift of empowerment.”

It pleases me to know that the members of EJCC realize the importance of investing time and resources in the next generation of leaders in the Environmental Justice and Climate Change movement, said Nia Robinson, an asthma activist from Detroit, who will be working in her community this summer.

I am excited to be part of the youth corps that is dedicated to protecting our climate, our communities and our future, says climate activist Jill Johnston, who will be working in San Antonio this summer.

The Climate Justice Corps is a project of the Environmental Justice and Climate Change Initiative, a group of racial justice leaders organized to bring visibility to the disproportionate impacts of climate change on their communities, and to fight global warming at its source. The Unites States is the largest contributor to the gases that cause global warming, contributing approximately one-quarter of global emissions.