America Today Interesting and true life story article about the little guy. Rich man vs Poor man , reminds me of the very popular local current environmental injustice events ,some refer to it as the Gratto Road Marshfield lives matter cause, not very well known. Like most enviromental injustices , it's takes many years of civil activism ups and downs just to get the issue in the public eye, mostly downs to this point for many. This story " Black activist fights for environmental justice " is a little reminder that sometimes the little guy can preval in the long run. Tara Drive
By Jessica R. Key, Indianapolis Recorder
" The Jerome Ringo Story"
Standing up for what’s right is honorable and necessary, but can also be frightening and isolating. Just ask Black environmental activist Jerome Ringo.
For more than 30 years, Ringo has led a national fight against environmental injustices plaguing minority communities. Although environmental advocacy is now mainstream, African-American activists are low in numbers.
“We’re the most impacted, so why are we not involved? It’s frustrating,” said Ringo. “I’ve been fighting that fight to be a pioneer and open the door for other African-Americans.”
Ringo grew up in Louisiana, where the oil and gas industry is king. Like many of his peers, he worked in those industries, he explained, only to grow concerned about the environmental ills these industries create. He witnessed communities of color suffer greatly from the pollution and contaminated water associated with oil refineries and chemical plants.
He learned about the problem and began advocating in local environmental groups, eventually working his way up to the national level.
An environmental pioneer
Ringo is the past chairperson of the National Wildlife Federation (NWF), the first African-American to hold this prestigious position in a major conservation organization.
Ringo is also CEO of Aggreco, which states that its aim is to harness the complexity of a connected and environmentally sound global food system to improve the lives of billions of people.
Ringo said what he discovered may vary depending on where you travel in the U.S., but the common theme is that no matter where you are, you’ll find minorities suffering from environmental injustice.
Life in ‘the bottom’
“Poor people and people of color are disproportionately impacted by poor environmental practices such as living near highways and railroad tracks; two out of three African-Americans live in the same zip code as a landfill; 70 percent of people of color live within a county that is in violation of the Clean Water and Clean Air Act,” said Ringo.
He noted that historically, Black neighborhoods were known as “the bottom.” City drainage systems were designed to flow to the lowest point of the city, or bottom, and usually, that’s where Blacks would dwell.
Refineries and sewage treatment plants were often located near Black neighborhoods as well, highlighting the fact that environmental injustice is a race and class issue, said Ringo.
Blacks often have fewer financial and political resources to fight for environmental justice, he said. Also, Blacks aren’t representing themselves in the fight, therefore the minority perspective is often overlooked in national conversations.
Climate change, global warming
Ringo believes Blacks should get involved in the debate about climate change and global warming caused by excessive carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Only 30 percent of the sun’s heat is needed for life, but due to a gaseous ring around the Earth from pollution, more heat is now being retained, causing rising temperatures, he said.
Although people of color will suffer more with climate change and pollution than other groups, environmental injustice remains low on the priority list for the Black community.
“It’s difficult to focus on the depletion of the ozone layer when you’re concerned about next month’s rent,” said Ringo. “It’s a matter of priority, but as I say to people who look like me, what good is next month’s rent if you’re dying of cancer as a result of living in the shadows of an industry?”
Unless change is made, the Black community can expect more deadly disasters like Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Sandy, scorching summers, frigid winters, and sinkholes. These weather changes are also expected to affect crop growth, potentially causing food prices to skyrocket, and can also lead to the proliferation of pestilence, such as the West Nile virus.
NAACP fights for environmental justice
Ringo is at the forefront of this issue, however others are working to raise awareness too. Indiana NAACP Environmental Climate Justice Chair Denise Abdul-Rahman said the NAACP has addressed environmental issues since 1909.
“It may have come in various forms, but it was still a civil rights issue,” said Abdul-Rahman, who admits this concept remains new to many in Indiana.
Abdul-Rahman advocates on a grassroots level, including urging local coal plants to reduce harmful emissions by 2016; and lead cleanups in areas like the Martindale-Brightwood neighborhood.
She and her committee work to eliminate abandoned housing; assisting churches and residents create disaster preparedness plans; and helping to eliminate “food deserts” in Black neighborhoods.
Helping Indiana residents transition to clean energy is also an economic priority of Abdul-Rahman.
“In Indiana we think of wind energy, and that’s great, but solar energy is something that can create jobs for our community, create training for our youth and help folks get it in their homes to control their energy usage,” she said.
Beyond the immediate impact of environmental justice, Ringo believes a bright financial future awaits minority youth who study these issues. Young African-Americans should consider promising careers such as environmental activism and biology.
“There’s a lot of money in the Green movement,” said Ringo.
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