The League of Conservation Voters (LCV) released a scorecard exclusively for members of Congress who sit on caucuses representing people of color, another sign of the now accepted reality that environmentalism and racial issues are deeply interconnected.
LCV found scored of most of theses caucuses was quite well: Members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American received an average score of 98 percent, followed closely by the Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.
“Our allies in Congress beat back the vast majority of attacks on urgent environmental protections and stood up for the well-being of communities of color experiencing the consequences of climate change,” Jennifer Allen, LCV senior vice President for community and civic engagement, said in a press statement.
“With only a few exceptions, Congressional members who are people of color and who represent communities of color are champions of environmental protections, fighting climate change and advancing public health.”
Those exceptions? Members of the Congressional Hispanic Conference, which happens to be controlled by the Republican Party. High-profile Republicans including Rep. Devin Nunes of California are counted as members. And while climate denial in the GOP is most often associated with anti-environmental champions such as Sens. Ted Cruz and Pat Toomey, it also extends to representatives who are, frankly, ignoring their constituents. Marco Rubio, who represents Florida, a low-lying coastal state which could face massive devastation from climate change, is directly hurting Floridians by voting against environmental policies on Capital Hill. Rubio is not a member of the Congressional Hispanic Conference, but Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart -- a member of the conference who also represents Florida -- is in the same boat.
What's positive is that environmentalists are taking racial justice seriously -- and with good reason. Evidence shows that environmental degradation hurts people of color, and immigrant communities, first. They tend to live closer to factories that pollute or near coal ash damns, which are known to break. Moreover, many of the early impacts of climate change will also hit these communities first.
In fact, LCV's scorecard is the latest in a long series of moves by environmental groups to take racial issues more seriously. This included the Sierra Club, Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth standing alongside Black Lives Matter protesters during the height of tensions around police violence last year. All three groups have also made working with communities of colors a priority.
This was not always the case sadly – but it's a welcome, if long overdue change. Only by working together can we bring about change – both for the environment and those communities who are impacted by not only climate and degradation, but a unjust social system well. The LCV scorecard will be a valuable tool in determining the true allies in Congress.
Image credit: Mark Klotz via Flickr
Nithin Coca is a freelance journalist who focuses on environmental, social, and economic issues around the world, with specific expertise in Southeast Asia.