At the end of last month, the Biden administration announced the members of the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council, which would “provide advice and recommendations to the Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) and the White House Environmental Justice Interagency Council on how to address current and historic environmental injustices.”
Twenty-six people were named to the council, but at least four of them have made radical statements connecting fossil fuels to racism.
Susana Almanza, for example, is the director of People Organized in Defense of Earth and Her Resources (PODER), an environmental justice organization based in Austin, Texas. Hilltop Views, the student news website of St. Edward’s University, profiled Almanza, noting that she has a Che Guevara poster in her office and said that her organization is “fighting big monsters; they’re not little ones,” referring to oil companies.
Beverly Wright, executive director of the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice, addressed a recent Department of Interior public forum on the federal oil and gas program and implored the Department to review the program “with an analysis of how it perpetuates environmental racism and the racial inequity of climate vulnerability.” She also insisted that “racial discrimination that is central to oil and gas operations.”
In an interview with Vox back in February, Wright linked energy development to slavery and Jim Crow.
“People often forget the legacies of slavery, of Jim Crow segregation and out of that chain, laws that were deeply entrenched within the social structure of the Southern environment that worsened our quality of life,” Wright told the outlet. “That legacy resulted in communities that had been inundated with toxic facilities, impacting our health, the value of the homes where people live, causing them to have higher cancer rates, and to eventually be relocated from within the midst of these facilities.”
Another member of the council, Jade Begay, communications and digital director at the Indigenous Environmental Network, previously called climate change “cultural genocide” in an article for EcoWatch.
“Climate change isn’t just a scientific issue—it’s an issue of racial inequity, economic inequity and cultural genocide,” she wrote. She also tied climate change to “colonialism.”
“It’s essential to note that Indigenous vulnerability and resilience to climate change cannot be detached from the context of colonialism, which created both the economic conditions for climate change and the social conditions that continue to limit the capacity for Indigenous resistance and resilience. Both historically and in the present, climate change itself is thoroughly tied to colonial practices. Greenhouse gas production over the last two centuries hinged on the dispossession of Indigenous lands and resources,” Begay wrote.
In an interview with Gal-Dem, Begay insisted that “the most important action needed now is to stop all new fossil fuel development.”
Finally, Tom Cormons wrote for the Green Scene Blog that “fossil fuels…are one of the greatest threats to our children’s future.”
Keep in mind, the advisory council was announced at the same time CNN reported that the Biden administration was seeking to purge dozens Trump-appointed advisers from two Environmental Protection Agency science panels.