Bearing The Brunt of Climate Change

The John Amos coal-fired power plant is seen behind a home in Poca
The John Amos coal-fired power plant is seen behind a home in Poca, West Virginia on May 18, 2014. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Robert Galbraith

By Leah Wiste & Bob Chapman, Michigan Interfaith Power & Light

This July, the African Methodist Episcopal Church—the oldest Protestant denomination founded by African Americans—became the latest religious body to pass a resolution on climate change.   

Many religious groups have issued statements about the urgency of environmental stewardship in an age of global warming and the need for action on behalf of those who suffer most: the world’s poor—the “least of these” in the language of Christian scriptures.

But the AME resolution is striking for how it directly connects the struggles of the global poor with the plight of low income communities and communities of color right here at home, who disproportionately live near coal-fired power plants and bear the worst consequences of our fossil fuel-based energy economy: 

[C]limate change puts the health of children, elderly, and those with chronic illnesses like asthma at greater risk and disproportionately impacts African Americans, especially Black children who are twice as likely as white children to be hospitalized and four times as likely to die from asthma.

Yes, you read that correctly.  Black children are four times as likely to die from asthma as white children. 

The connection between those suffering far away and those suffering nearby is obvious to many, yet it bears repeating.  The “least of these” includes not just people in the developing world, people who are starving, and other favorite targets of first world benevolence.  It also includes people everywhere who have been systematically oppressed, marginalized and disenfranchised. 

This connection bears repeating until the phrase “Black Lives Matter” becomes as uncontroversial as the notion that people of faith have a duty to love our neighbors, especially the least of these.  

If we’re doing it right, acting on climate and pursuing social justice go hand in hand.  If these issues matter to you, please get in touch and join our work!

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