Commentary: It's Time for Blacks to Go Green and Embrace Environmentalism

With a new university study linking air pollution to illnesses among Black women, the African-American community has one more reason to take environmentalism seriously.

Posted: 01/19/2012 07:05 PM EST

In the song “Murder to Excellence” off the album Watch the Throne, Kanye West raps, In the past if you picture events like a black-tie/ What the last thing you expect to see? Black guys!  In the same vein, ask someone what an environmentalist looks like, and they may have a lot of answers for you—flannel, beard, hippie, granola-eating—but it’s unlikely they’ll describe to you a Black person.

For whatever reason, despite the success of people like Van Jones and warnings from public health officials, doctors, scientists and the press, environmentalism continues to be considered the realm of wealthy white people. But given new studies linking air pollution to increased levels of inner-city illness -- it’s time for Blacks to take a more active role in the environmental movement.

Exhibit number 4,080 is a new Boston University study of Black women in Los Angeles. The research discovered that women who were living near high levels of air pollution were more likely to have serious health problems than women away from the pollution. This from Reuters:

The researchers … found that Black women living in neighborhoods with high levels of nitrogen oxides, pollutants found in traffic exhaust, were 25 percent more likely to develop diabetes and 14 percent more likely to develop hypertension than those living in sections with cleaner air.

To be certain their findings were accurate, the researchers controlled for other influencers, like weight and smoking.

None of this research means that the sole reason Blacks are unhealthy is because of pollution. Indeed, healthier eating and healthier lifestyle choices are probably the most important and effective way to lower diabetes and hypertension in Black enclaves. But it does mean that living in healthy environments is vitally important, too. And that means demanding strong environmental protection laws and serious regulation over energy and transportation companies who eagerly  pump our air full of waste when it keeps their bottom line healthy.

Everybody likes to call environmentalism the green movement. Let’s make it a black movement, too.

The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.

BET Health News - We go beyond the music and entertainment world to bring you important medical information and health-related tips of special relevance to Blacks in the U.S. and around the world.



Videos You May Enjoy

(Photo: Baltimore Sun/MCT/Landov)

From Our Partners