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The Power to Win: Black, Latiné, and Working Class Community Organizing on the Climate Crisis

Black, Indigenous, Latiné, low-income communities, and the global south —the people who have the lowest carbon footprint—are the most impacted by the devastating impacts of the climate crisis.

Published By

Center for Popular Democracy
    This report was written and researched by Abby Ang, Eli Vitulli, and Sheryl-Amber Edmondson. It was reviewed by Betamia Coronel, Maggie Corser, Vonne Martin, Steve Dooley, angélique nguyễn green, and Julio López Varona. Graphic design is by Morgan Buck. We would like to thank the following affiliate staff for sharing their work for our case studies: • Ryan Witten and Meda DeWitt, Alaskans Take a Stand • Eduardo Zelaya and Trent Leon-Lierman, CASA • Veronica Coptis, Center for Coalfield Justice • Ivanna Gonzalez, Florida Rising • Jose Rivera, Make the Road Nevada • Alice Hu and Jose Gonzalez, New York Communities for Change • LaDon Love, SPACEs in Action • Maria Harmon, Step Up Louisiana • Juan Benitez, Workers Defense Project We would also like to thank Elizabeth Alex (Center for Popular Democracy) and Kevin Whelan (Honor the Earth) for their insights, and to Mayra Lopez (Center for Popular Democracy) for her work facilitating affiliate engagement. The Center for Popular Democracy is a nonprofit organization that promotes equity, opportunity, and an inclusive, multiracial democracy in partnership with 48 affiliates in over 200 cities and 33 states, Puerto Rico, and Washington, DC.

    After decades of warnings from scientists and activists, the climate crisis is no longer a prognosis of what is to come, it is the definitive reality of our world. In the last 50 years, global carbon emissions have risen by 90%, and this past April marked the highest recorded levels of CO2 in human history.

    Our use of fossil fuels is costing us our lives. Each year, we are experiencing the rapidly increasing effects of this industry-caused crisis: intense droughts and heatwaves, stronger and more frequent hurricanes, increased flooding from rising
    seas, blazing wildfires, and more.

    While corporations and the wealthy are responsible for the continued production of the carbon emissions that drive climate change, Black, Indigenous, Latiné, low-income communities, and the global south —the people who have the lowest carbon footprint—are the
    most impacted by the devastating impacts of the climate crisis. Black people, in particular, are 75% more likely than white people to reside near incinerators, coal power stations, or in low-lying areas at risk of flooding.

    Because of historic environmental racism, disinvestment, poor infrastructure, and lack of resources, these communities are far less equipped to prepare for and recover from climate disasters, placing them at far greater risk of the multitude of traumas that climate disasters unleash. Accordingly, these communities are also on the frontlines of the very work needed to transform the crisis. As the largest network of grassroots organizations in the US, the Center for Popular Democracy (CPD) and our 48 affiliates play a vital role in building the power necessary to tackle the climate crisis. CPD’s affiliate organizations are based in the very Black, Latiné, and low-income communities that are most disproportionately impacted by the climate crisis. For nearly a decade, the community organizations of the CPD network have fought for and won significant change at the federal, state, and local levels—all while being significantly under-resourced for this work.

    The next few years are a critical chapter in human history. It is not an overstatement to say that whether we transform the climate crisis over the coming years will determine whether vast numbers of people—indeed vast amounts of life on earth itself—will have a future. Grassroots community organizations in the US arguably play the most critical role—building the scaled multi-racial, multi-generational, multi-class movement that is necessary to deliver the interventions that will truly change the future we will all live in to.