Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Environmental Justice
Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. was an incredible civil rights activist, but also pioneered environmental justice on multiple occasions. On the night of April 3, 1968, one day before his untimely death, King spoke at a protest as part of the Memphis sanitation workers’ strike. On Feb. 12 of that year, 1,300 Black men who worked in sanitation for the city joined
together to start the strike. They were fed up with working in conditions that were highly polluted and dangerous, as compared to the working conditions of the city’s white sanitation workers, which he spoke about on the last night of his life, at a Memphis sanitation strike.
Martin Luther King, Jr. helped pass the Civil Rights Act, which led to various other sections of environmental legislation. These two major acts were very much associated with the Clean Air Act of 1963 and the Clean Water Act of 1972.
Both set out to reduce local, environmental pollution -issues that tend to disproportionately affect, black communities, and other communities of color. These acts were also tied to the Endangered Species act of 1973, which was created to protect endangered animals and plant species, as well as, encourage and support biodiversity.
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” King famously wrote in a “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” in 1963, as per a transcript shared by University of Pennsylvania’s Africa Center. “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” That is essentially the definition of intersectional activism.
And intersectional environmentalism is incredibly important in the fight against climate change. As long as marginalized groups — such as BIPOC, low-income communities, and people living in poverty in undeveloped countries — are suffering from the climate crisis more than those who live in predominantly white or affluent areas, combating the climate crisis will require an intersectional approach.
From an article, originally published on Jan. 14, 2022. by GreenMatters