18 Apr 2003 Project 21 Press Release: Black Environmentalism Celebrated in Observance of Earth Day – April 2003
African-American environmental achievements are celebrated and concerns are aired by Project 21 as part of the African-American leadership network’s observance of Earth Day 2003 on April 21. “Solidarity and Stewardship: African-Americans and the Environment” can be found on Project 21’s Internet web site at http://www.nationalcenter.org/CEJEAA.html.
“The history of African-Americans and the environment has been one more of stewardship than activism, and I believe that makes blacks more advanced than other environmental activists,” said Project 21 director David Almasi. “Blacks have been motivated more by survival than armchair advocacy. It comes from toiling in the fields instead of reaping the benefits produced by the hard work of others.”
“Solidarity and Stewardship” features a history of African-American environmentalism and profiles of black environmental heroes. The web site also contains a large selection of policy materials showing how the government’s environmental regulations often work against black progress. It makes suggestions on how the regulatory process can be more equitable for the poor and people of color.
While African-Americans are not well-represented in the leadership of establishment environmental organizations, government policies regulating environmental quality arguably have more of an effect on blacks than any other segment of the population. For instance:
* An econometric study of “smart growth” land use policies commissioned in part by Project 21 found the average home price might have risen by an average of $10,000 (in current dollars) during the 1990s, and rental prices would have risen by six percent, if restrictive policies like those found in Portland, Oregon were imposed nationwide. For minorities, an estimated 260,000 households would have been unable to buy the homes where they now live.
* Environmental regulations cost American households an average of $3,000 per year. Because of income differences, black households end up spending 12 percent of their incomes to comply with these regulations as opposed to only 7.1 percent for their white counterparts.
* Proposed regulations related to the United Nation’s Kyoto Protocol on global warming could raise energy costs by an estimated $1,740 per household. A study also found global warming regulations could put an estimated 864,000 African-Americans out of work.
* A survey of “environmental justice” organizations conducted by Project 21 and the John P. McGovern, MD Center for Environmental and Regulatory Affairs in November of 2000 found that 63 percent of those surveyed agreed that environmental laws are unevenly applied and minorities are disproportionately hurt. 91 percent of respondents ranked priorities like economic advancement, health care and educational opportunity above improving environmental quality.
“The average environmentalist is likely to be white and financially secure. This allows them to be unrealistic when advocating environmental laws,” said Almasi. “Black Americans have been more rooted in weighing desires and needs. This leads to more sound environmental policies.”
Project 21 has been a leading voice in the African-American community since 1992. For more information, contact Chris Burger or David Almasi at (202) 507-6398 or [email protected], or visit Project 21’s web site at http://www.project21.org/P21Index.html.