President Obama shouldn’t leave the Gulf out of protection from new drilling
Recently, President Obama finally took drilling in the Atlantic off the table, saving countless lives and livelihoods across Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. And yet, he left those of us living on the Gulf Coast in the line of fire. Which is a problem, because the fight against climate change and the fossil fuel industry for us is a fight for civil and human rights.
Here in Louisiana, our lack of political voice in Washington literally puts our lives on the line as profits (time and time again) take precedence over our health and safety. During Hurricane Katrina, part of a growing tide of climate-change-fueled extreme weather events, many of our friends and neighbors lost everything. Tens of thousands of poor, black, and elderly people across the coast were left to die.
Then, the BP oil spill happened. For the second time, tens of thousands of people had their livelihoods devastated. Our fishermen were out of work, our beaches were unusable, our tourism dried up. Even my community of Shreveport, although not directly on the coast, was effected. This month we’ve been slammed by strong storms and we know that climate change will only make these types of weather events stronger and more frequent.
Meanwhile, day in and day out, countless low income communities and communities of color across the Louisiana and Texas coasts deal with levels of toxic pollution in their air and water that would be declared a federal emergency in Hollywood or the Upper West Side. We live with sky-high cancer and asthma rates that are simply unacceptable.
Put simply, we’ve been written off. For profit, for convenience, by habit — our communities have been left with air and water that is costing us the lives and health of our friends and families. And if only that were all, because as we saw in Katrina, we are also at the front lines of the very extreme weather being exacerbated by climate change fueled by these greedy corporations.
African Americans are far more likely to live in places that are vulnerable to extreme weather, like low-lying coastal areas and cities. For example, we’re at greater risk of extreme heating in urban areas. Indeed, African Americans die of heat-related causes at nearly twice the rate of whites. Additionally, the 2014 National Climate Assessment found that rising sea levels and flooding overwhelmingly hurt low-income and minority
communities because it’s difficult for them to relocate and they’re less likely to have access to good infrastructure and transit.
Enough. There is a better way. Solar power is cheaper than ever before, beating out coal in numerous states. Clean energy jobs have the ability to reinvigorate the very communities that have been devastated by fossil fuels. We deserve that investment, after generations of dirty air and water.
I applaud organizers across the Atlantic for their victory, and President Obama for his leadership, in taking Atlantic drilling off the table. Now we need more, because the Gulf Coast also deserves freedom from the fear of spills and increasingly extreme weather. We should end the expansion of gulf drilling and focus those resources on new clean energy sources.
We can fix this– the time has come to move to 100% clean renewable energy. The first step is 50% clean energy by 2030. And to get there, President Obama needs to take new drilling in the Gulf off the table.
Communities of color and low income communities are on the front lines of the fight against fossil fuels and climate change because our lives are literally on the line. From the toxic pollution that infiltrates our neighborhoods from refineries and chemical plants to increasingly extreme weather from climate change, we can’t afford to sit this fight out.
President Obama, please continue your leadership on climate change and stand up for black and latino communities across the Gulf Coast: take new drilling here off the table.
Rev. Bruce Carroll is the Director of Christian Education at Stonewall Missionary Baptist Church of Bossier City, LA. As President of Carroll Ministries, he promotes sustainability and environmental justice throughout the Black Church community nationwide with Green the Church in partnership with national environmental justice group Green For All.