African Americans Behind on Environmental Issues

Muhammad Yungai Data News Weekly Contributor

How many people reading this know what “green infrastructure” is? What about “LID”? How about “FOG”? MS4? BMP? LEED? Are you lost? Yes! This is exactly my point. Although everything I listed are acronyms, they are common to the industry that I previously worked in.

And these terms are becoming part of the common lexicon. They are a part of the much larger concern about “saving the planet”. Of course, there is considerable hyperbole in the idea of “saving the planet” as we may have passed the point of no return in terms of toxic pollutants. This is not to mention that there are still powerful world leaders out there who are foolish enough to conduct wars. If a nuclear conflagration ever breaks out, we can kiss the earth goodbye.

Meanwhile, though, on a micro level, we can attempt to keep our environment as clean and healthy as possible. Unfortunately, there is not enough interest in these types of things in our community. It’s a sad fact that someone visiting almost any city or town can identify many of our African American communities by the amount of litter there.

We are disproportionately poor and are disproportionately renters in many urban communities, which of course, impacts the quality of life. Homeowners and more prosperous communities have more of a stake in keeping their communities viable. Yet, none of this excuse the fact that in too many cases, we treat the streets as giant garbage cans or treat our neighborhoods as if we have butlers and maids who will come along and clean up after us when just the reverse is true.

Our neighborhoods are the least likely to have the Sanitation Department pick up litter and clean the streets. Much of our lack of concern has to do with more immediate, pressing issues like avoiding shootings, making the rent and the everyday grind of a job, childcare or some other responsibility. But let’s be real. We’ve all seen people walk right past a garbage can and throw something on the ground. Or even worse, at least in my eyes; throw trash right out of a moving car window.

Let’s admit it. Much of this lack of concern is also just slovenliness and sheer laziness. Some of us won’t bother to bend over and pick up litter from in front of the house.

Of course, there are many other life or death issues deserving discussion, such as nuclear vs. renewable energy. I hope to address some of these and other issues affecting the environment and African Americans in my four-part series.

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