Every year, the people of New Orleans commemorate the devastation and loss inflicted by Hurricane Katrina in August 2005 with a parade, a surprisingly upbeat affair in the tradition of a New Orleans “Jazz Funeral” . This year being the 10th anniversary of the solemn occasion, parade organizers are going all-out, planning the biggest parade yet. There is another significant difference about this year’s parade: it will call attention to the perils of climate change and its impacts on the city, specifically its low-income and minority residents.
For the first time, the parade will attempt to weave discussions of climate change and environmental justice into the traditional discourse about the Hurricane and its impacts on the community. The parade, which will take place on Saturday, August 29th, will feature prominent speakers from the environmental movement, such as the Sierra Club’s Michael Brune and 350.org’s Bill McKibben.
A major player in the call for environmental justice to be added to the parade is Rev. Lennox Yearwood, president of the Hip Hop Caucus, which seeks to engage youth in political advocacy. He told ThinkProgress, “We know from Hurricane Katrina that it is the poor and people of color who get left behind. Climate change is a life and death issue, not only for New Orleans but for communities across the U.S.”
Overall, the concept of environmental justice seeks to not only ameliorate the conditions of the environment on an aggregate level, but also to make sure that costs and benefits are evenly distributed among different racial/socioeconomic communities. In the US, proponents claim that there is still much work to be done on that front, with studies claiming that people of color are exposed to air with 38% more Nitrogen Dioxide pollution than white people are. The poorest residents cannot adapt to dramatic changes like violent storms, droughts, and heat waves as well as more affluent residents can.