George Floyd was murdered on May 25th. This tragedy led to an unprecedented movement for social justice across the US and the world. The fight has to continue until impactful change happens, we have to keep the conversation going.
I haven’t been very vocal about what happened these past weeks. I just wanted to leave space for the many voices that needed to be heard. I also wanted to take the time to learn from these voices about that sinistre part of the US history that I knew almost nothing about until a few weeks ago - being born and raised in France. The trauma experienced by black and native american communities is unbearable. Learning about the civil rights movement led by MLK junior opened my eyes on the deep roots of racism in this country (list of recommended movies and reads at the end of this post).
Then came these words from Ayana Elizabeth Johnson that helped me connecting the dots.
“To the white people who care about maintaining a habitable planet, I need you to be actively anti-racist. I need you to understand that our inequality crisis is intertwined with the climate crisis. If we don’t work on both, we will succeed at neither.”
In the many presentations I have made about plastic pollution over 3 years, I focused a lot on the impacts on the environment, the oceans, our health, but although I knew about it and cared about it, I rarely showed the impact on poor communities in the US, where plastic is made, and in Asia/Indonesia where plastic waste ends up. Now I decided it was time for me to change the narrative.
Because THERE IS NO ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE WITHOUT SOCIAL JUSTICE.
(featured art by @owlandbearstudio).
The link between Environmental and Social Justice is obvious in The Story of Plastic: the true cost of plastic pollution remains hidden from our view. People are suffering from the moment oil is extracted from the Earth to the moment where we dump our single use plastics in foreign countries.
Have you ever heard about “Cancer Alley” in Louisiana where POC communities directly suffer from the heavy pollution generated by the 150 petrochemical plants they are surrounded by? It’s an 85 mile stretch along the Mississippi River. No one would want to live there, but these low income communities don't have a choice. People living in this area are more than 50 times as likely to get cancer than the average American.
Yvette Arellano is one of the heroes featured in The Story of Plastic. She works for the organization T.E.J.A.S Barrios who is fighting hard against air pollution in low income communities in Texas.
And now, because of skyrocketing air pollution levels, these communitites are hit harder by Covid-19.
"In the US and the UK, research has found that people of color suffer more air pollution than white residents. Poor air quality, which is linked to multiple respiratory and cardiovascular conditions, significantly increases the risk of death from Covid-19.”