By: Tony McCray
Pensacola and Escambia County’s local organizations have recently been involved in climate change events as the African-American communities throughout the nation are increasing their focus on this controversial issue. In our local community, the Wedgewood neighborhood has become involved in the climate change dialogue because of the publicity generated by the environmental injustice of 12 landfills in one area of Escambia County. Dr. Beverly Wright, the Executive Director of Dillard University Deep South Center of Environmental Justice, has adopted Wedgewood and the surrounding neighborhoods of Rolling Hills and Olive Heights as a targeted area to bring additional resources to save the lives of the residents and their property values. Larry Williams, a landowner and resident of Wedgewood was invited to attend the Climate Change Conference to bring critical information back to Escambia County’s Black communities.
At this year’s 5th Anniversary of HBCU Climate Change Conference of Historically Black Colleges and Universities, examples of workshops are as follows: “Keeping Our Heads Above Water: Remembering Katrina”, “Keeping Our Heads Above Water: Looking Back to Move Forward in the City of New Orleans”, “The Nexus of the Urban Heat Island and Land Use Configuration in Downtown Houston”, and “Community-Based Participatory Research (CBPR) Model: A Tool for Combatting Climate Change Impacts”. This last listed workshop, presented by Dr. Beverly Wright herself, spotlighted Pensacola and the Wedgewood, Rolling Hills, and Olive Heights communities for a project funded by the Kellogg Foundation. This project’s focus is to assist these local areas in their battles against environmental injustice and other social and economic challenges.
Additionally, Climate Central, Inc. and the NAACP National Office held a “Climate Justice Workshop” in Pensacola last weekend at the Hyatt Place Hotel at Pensacola Airport with the central focus on Sea Level Rise/Coastal Flood Risk and Social Vulnerabilities. Jacqui Patterson, the National Director for the NAACP Environmental and Climate Change Program was in Pensacola along with Lewis Jennings, the NAACP Florida State Conference Environmental and Climate Change Chairman, Minister Rodney Jones, NAACP Pensacola Branch President, and concerned residents from along the Northwest Florida Gulf Coast.
Both Dillard University’s Deep South Center for Environmental Justice and the NAACP Environmental AND Climate Change Program are beating the drums of critical information flowing to the African-American communities on how the proliferation of climate change has a disproportionate impact on communities of color and low income communities in the United States and around the world. Both the Dillard and the NAACP programs have been created to support community leadership in addressing this human and civil rights issue.
In the past, and to some extent still now, when people think of environmentalism, they often think of saving the whales or hugging trees! When folks think about climate change, what often comes to mind are melting ice caps and suffering polar bears. Historically, American society has failed to make the connection in terms of the direct impact of environmental injustices, including climate change, on our own lives, families, and communities, all of whom depend on the physical environment and its bounty. Race is the number one indicator for the placement of toxic facilities in this country. For more information contact: Lewis Jennings, the NAACP Florida State Conference Environmental and Climate Change Chairman at (850) 259-7171.