The Movement for Black Lives launched a new climate change initiative on Thursday, bringing together more than 200 Black environmental leaders and organizations from across the country who have pledged to find equitable climate solutions focused on Black Americans and communities.
The Black Hive initiative expands on the movement’s 2021 Red, Black, and Green New Deal by reintroducing its Black Climate Mandate, which outlines the urgency of a Black climate agenda and investment in equitable strategies that specifically protect Black Americans.
The announcement, first reported by The Associated Press, comes in the aftermath of a Supreme Court decision limiting the EPA’s ability to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, as well as the recent passage of the Inflation Reduction Act.
Numerous studies have found that for decades, Black and other communities of color have borne the brunt of climate and environmental impacts. According to Black Hive leaders, structural racism, the legacy of enslavement, and socioeconomic factors such as redlining, segregation, and poverty have increased the likelihood of Black communities being located near toxic sites or directly affected by climate change.
Gunder stated that she has already witnessed the effects of climate change in her home state of Florida. She has been involved in community climate justice work, focusing on the effects of rising sea levels, residential displacement, and housing and food security issues. Farmers in South Florida have told her that saltwater intrusion is causing crop damage.
The Movement for Black Lives is a national network of over 150 leaders and organizations that was formed to provide a broad political home for Black people to organize across the country and within their communities. Beyond policing, the movement has expanded to include issues such as climate change and environmental justice. The collective is asking people to sign the Black Climate and Environmental Justice Pledge and commit to advancing The Black Hive’s Black Climate Mandate, which will be updated this year.
According to the Black Hive leaders, they intend to provide local communities and Black-led organizations with resources, data and technology, communications, and disaster response assistance. Water, energy, land, labor, economy and reparations, democracy, health, and global Black diaspora solidarity are among the issues addressed by the initiative. Participants intend to raise awareness through grassroots organizing and community education.
Advocates such as Alston-Toure’ have questioned recent federal climate efforts, such as the Inflation Reduction Act signed into law this month by President Joe Biden. Its supporters claim that billions of dollars in climate and environmental investments will flow to communities across the country that have long been plagued by pollution and climate threats. However, supporters argue that it is not bold enough in addressing climate issues affecting Black Americans, and they criticize provisions in the bill that support the expansion of fossil fuels.
14 environmental justice organizations began receiving funding in June as part of the Justice40 initiative, a Biden administration pledge to improve the environment in disadvantaged communities and assist them in preparing for climate change. The initiative promises to direct 40% of all climate and environmental investments to communities that face environmental challenges such as diesel soot, lead water pipes, and a lack of access to green spaces.
However, Alston-Toure’ believes that communities must be able to trust that money from these new initiatives will go directly to Black-led organizations. She claims that far too often, the majority of funding goes to organizations or individuals who are not rooted in the communities affected.
According to a study conducted last year by The New School’s Tishman Environment and Design Center, between 2016 and 2017, 12 national environmental grant makers awarded $1.34 billion to organizations in the Gulf and Midwest regions — but only $18 million, or 1.3%, was awarded to environmental justice organizations.
Last year, Donors of Color, a philanthropic organization dedicated to promoting racial equity in environmental project funding across the country, launched a pledge drive challenging the nation’s top climate funders to direct 30% of their donations toward environmental efforts led by Black, Indigenous, Hispanic, and other people of color.
Alabama resident the Rev. Michael Malcom, founder and executive director of The People’s Justice Council, said he’s hopeful the Movement for Black Lives’ new climate initiative will focus efforts on communities long ignored and will bring real change.