Climate Justice, Hurricane Katrina, and African American Environmentalism

Journal of African American Studies 3 (18):305-314 (2014)
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Abstract

The images of human suffering from New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina remain seared in our nation's collective memory. More than 8 years on, the city and its African-American population still have not recovered fully. This reality highlights an important truth: the disturbances that accompany climate change will first and foremost affect minority communities, many of whom are economically disadvantaged. This paper: (1) describes how Hurricane Katrina, an example of the type of natural disaster that will become more prevalent with intensifying climate change, has impacted the black community of New Orleans; (2) explores the notion that African Americans, in the midst of racial oppression, have developed a unique and powerful brand of environmental thought that has much to contribute to mainstream environmentalism; and (3) argues that the voice of the black community, which has a vested interest in climate outcomes, is critically needed in today's climate debate.

Author's Profile

W. Malcolm Byrnes
Howard University

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