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Deep Breath: Unpacking The Cost of Environmental Pollution In Black Communities

By Earlene Greene

  • The Biden administration’s largest-ever investment in environmental justice initiative with $2B to clean up pollution and develop clean energy in disadvantaged communities
  • African-Americans are exposed to 56% more pollution than they actually produce

In a groundbreaking move, the Biden administration has earmarked a staggering $2 billion for its largest-ever environmental justice initiative, aimed at cleaning up pollution and fostering clean energy development in marginalized communities. This initiative responds to the stark realities of environmental racism and the disproportionate impact of pollution on Black neighborhoods. It’s not just about monetary investments; it’s about rectifying historical wrongs, ensuring equitable access to a clean and safe environment for all, and one day being able to take a breath of fresh air.

Why This Matters: Environmental justice is not just an abstract concept; it carries a hefty price tag for the health and well-being of Black communities. The monetized cost associated with health impacts from environmental issues in these areas is a staggering $6.9 billion annually. This figure underscores the urgency of addressing the environmental burdens as the detrimental health effects range from respiratory issues to cardiovascular diseases, placing an enormous burden on individuals and strained healthcare systems.

One of the key issues at the intersection of environmental justice and racial equity is the vulnerability of redlined Black neighborhoods who are suffering under extreme heat from climate change. These areas, systematically excluded from resources and opportunities, face higher risks and bear the brunt of environmental degradation. The $2 billion investment signifies a tangible step towards rectifying this historical injustice, offering a glimmer of hope for communities grappling with the long-lasting effects of discriminatory policies.

Situational Awareness: The grim reality that African-Americans are exposed to 56% more pollution than they produce exposes the insidious nature of environmental racism. As the Biden administration takes strides to address these issues head-on, it is crucial to recognize the human cost of environmental pollution in Black communities. This initiative is not just about cleaning up the physical environment; it is an investment in the health, dignity, and future of communities that have for too long shouldered the heavy burdens of environmental injustice.

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