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article imageOp-Ed: The Green New Deal is our chance to really honor MLK's legacy

By Karen Graham     Jan 21, 2019 in World
As the U.S. honors the life and legacy of iconic civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. today, we are reminded that the social justice and the climate movements are deeply connected.
As we celebrate MLK Day, we are reminded that King was a catalyst for nonviolent activism in the Civil Rights Movement, which successfully protested racial discrimination in federal and state law.
But I think MLK would have also been an activist for mitigating the effects of climate change, and in particular, would have supported the Green New Deal. I read a commentary in Forbes last night, written by Marshall Shepherd, a scientist and writer.
‏Shepherd writes that climate change is one of the most significant challenges facing humanity today, something that I have written about a great deal. But he also points out that climate change is most often thought of in terms of its impact on agriculture, energy, public health, national security or weather disasters.
But taking into account the most recent U.S. National Climate Assessment report, it affirms previous studies that climate change disproportionately impacts marginalized, vulnerable and disadvantaged populations of all races.
Shepherd asks the question: "would Dr. King have been concerned about climate change?" Mitigating the impacts of climate change has to include everyone, regardless of their station in life. And on this day of remembering the contributions that Dr. King made to our country, the answer to the question would have to be a resounding "Yes."
The Green New Deal is all about equality
The Green New Deal is a proposed economic stimulus program that aims to address both economic inequality and climate change. Journalist Thomas L. Friedman used the term in 2007 in two pieces he wrote that appeared in the New York Times and the New York Times Magazine.
People living in poverty in the US are seeing their rights "increasingly ignored"  says th...
People living in poverty in the US are seeing their rights "increasingly ignored", says the UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights
Friedman's idea caught on quickly, taken up by the Green New Deal Group, which took its name from the term and published its report on July 21, 2008. The concept was further popularized and put on a wider footing when the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) began to promote it.
As Earther points out, with the Green New Deal gaining popularity in the U.S., proponents want to create jobs for everyone, in turn, adding wealth back into communities that have historically been left behind, while at the same time, getting rid of dirty fossil fuels and working toward a clean and equitable economy.
Dr. King has something to say about equality
Martin Luther King III, who continues his dad’s advocacy work, has called the environmental battle a “fight for equal rights.” And without a doubt, he would have something to say about the countless families in the South, Puerto Rico and California who have been impacted by disasters brought on by climate change.
Hurricane Harvey  which flooded these homes near Lake Houston  Texas  in August 2017  cost $125 mill...
Hurricane Harvey, which flooded these homes near Lake Houston, Texas, in August 2017, cost $125 million and was the second-most expensive hurricane in US history
As a matter of fact, in a 1967 speech at the University of California at Berkeley, Dr. King lamented our inability to use our intelligence and ability to help others. “Our nation suffers from a kind of poverty of the spirit, which stands in glaring contrast to our scientific and technological abundance. Yes, we’ve learned to fly the air like birds. We’ve learned to swim the seas like fish. And yet we have not learned the simple art of walking the earth as brothers and sisters.”
This is really not too difficult to attain, either, and it would be right up there with Dr. King's advocacy for equality, too. Five years ago, Forbes writer Alex Knapp featured this quote by Dr. King: "There may be a conflict between soft-minded religion and tough-minded scientists," he said. "But not between science and religion. Their respective worlds are different and their methods are dissimilar. Science investigates; religion interprets. Science gives man knowledge which is power; religion gives man wisdom which is control. Science deals mainly with facts; religion deals mainly with values. The two are not rivals. They are complementary."
A Green New Deal would be a new beginning
Dr. King believed it was wrong for anyone to live in poverty, especially in one of the wealthiest countries in the world. Just last year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's National Center for Environmental Assessment released a study that found that low-income populations and people of color are disproportionately exposed to air pollution because of living in lower-income communities.
"Those in poverty had 1.35 times higher burden than did the overall population," the report said, "and non-Whites had 1.28 times higher burden. Blacks, specifically, had 1.54 times higher burden than did the overall population."
Few people living in America today will remember how it was in the 1940s. This is an image of a wart...
Few people living in America today will remember how it was in the 1940s. This is an image of a wartime production plant. LOC - CALL NUMBER LC-USW36-376, reproduction number LC-DIG-fsac-1a35072.
Library of Congress
The most recent U.S. National Climate Assessment found that these same communities will suffer the most from Earth's rapidly rising temperatures. "People who are already vulnerable, including lower-income and other marginalized communities, have a lower capacity to prepare for and cope with extreme weather and climate-related events and are expected to experience greater impacts," the authors wrote.
Clayborne Carson is a historian of the civil rights figure who founded Stanford University’s Martin Luther King Jr. Research and Education Institute. Carson told Earther, “Unfortunately, a lot of the environmentalism since [King’s] time has not always been conscious of the social and economic implications of [shifting to a green economy] for poor people. We tend to think that people who are capable of using solar energy tend to be the rich rather than the poor.”
With the Green New Deal, we have an opportunity to honor Dr. King and make climate change mitigation equal for everyone in our country, regardless of their color or circumstances, something I believe Dr. King would want.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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