WASHINGTON (CN) – A panel of environmental and energy specialists explored ways to keep minority communities from being disproportionally affected by pollution and global warming. John Atcheson from the U.S. Department of Energy said 30,000 people who died in Europe’s 2003 heat wave were “overwhelmingly the poor and the old.”
Atcheson used the example to explain how pollution and global warming are harming the poor more than others. He pointed to air conditioning and the ability to move to higher ground as a rich person’s advantage, saying, “The rich can buy their way out.”
Avis Robinson representing the Environmental Protection Agency added that it is minorities who are most often exposed to pollution.
Civil rights leader Ben Chavis Muhammed added that the poor are subject to a variety of social ills. “One of the problems with minority communities is that we are disproportionately exposed to a lot of stuff.”
He included poor nutrition and poor healthcare, saying these compound the problems of pollution.
Craig Hooks, a representative of the EPA, argued that one solution is greater energy efficiency because it would reduce pollution.
Towards the end of the discussion, when the panel fell silent to hear questions, the variety of cultures represented within the audience came out.
“For 40,000 years, tribal people have conducted a green economy,” said an audience member wearing a ponytail. “Let’s use the sunshine, let’s use the wind.”
Another person from the audience walked up to a microphone and began to sing “Ain’t Nobody Gonna Turn Me Around.”
The conference took place at the Howard University School of Law. The Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy hosted the event.