Groups to host speaker on climate justice

Thursday, February 23, 2017

AMHERST — Three local groups have joined together to bring the national director of the NAACP’s Environmental and Climate Justice Program to Amherst.

Jacqueline Patterson, the director of the program which was created to support community leadership in addressing the human and civil rights issue surrounding climate change, is scheduled to speak at 2 p.m. Sunday.

The event, “When Movements Unite for Climate Justice” will be held at the Unitarian Universalist Society of Amherst, 120 N. Pleasant St.

“She (Patterson) is uniquely suited to help us understand the connections between climate change, economic justice, racial justice,” said Susan Theberge, Amherst area NAACP Environmental & Climate Justice Chair & co-founder of Climate Action Now.

The connection, Theberge explained, was seen in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina. Those without a car or transportation out suffered the worst, she said.

“People living in poor communities and communities of color are more likely to experience the destructive effects of climate change while having fewer resources to deal with them,” according to the organization. “They are more likely to be exposed and less likely to be able to escape mega-storms and flooding, less likely to have air condition during heat waves, and are unable to afford high food prices caused by droughts or flooding.”

Climate change isn’t the only issue that disproportionately affects low-income communities or communities of color. Race, even more than class, is the number one indicator for the placement of toxic facilities in the country, according to the NAACP’s program.

The event is a collaboration with the Amherst area NAACP, Climate Action Now and Coming Together: Understanding Racism, Building Fairness and Connection, according to Theberge.

“I think this is an essential time for our movements around economic justice, racial justice, and climate justice to come together,” Theberge said. “We hoped that by having these three organizations here, it was a real clear sort of message about how we really want to bring that work together.”

Climate Action Now began in 2012 following a conference in Amherst.

The following year, another climate justice conference was held and Patterson was the keynote speaker.

“Jacqui was really very inspiring to us on that day,” Theberge said.

Theberge said personally, she would love to leave the weekend with a deeper commitment to building solidarity among economic, racial and climate justice movements in the area. “We can’t win alone, and we can’t win divided but together we could build just a massive unstoppable, powerful, mass climate justice movement that links all these struggles,” Theberge said. “That is our path forward.”

Emily Cutts can be reached at ecutts@gazettenet.com.