Demands for climate action have faded into the background as the covid-19 pandemic, the economic meltdown, and widespread protests over police brutality have seized the world’s attention.
But for Rhiana Gunn-Wright, the director of climate policy at the Roosevelt Institute and one of the architects of the Green New Deal, the issues are inextricably intertwined. You can’t appreciate the real toll of the fossil-fuel sector if you’re not looking at it through the lenses of racial justice, economic inequality, and public health, she says in an interview with MIT Technology Review.
People of color are more likely to live near power plants and other polluting factories, and they suffer higher levels of asthma and greater risks of early death from air pollution. The coronavirus death rate among black Americans is more than twice that of whites. And global warming and factory farming practices will release more deadly pathogens and reshape the range of infectious diseases.
One critique of the Green New Deal was that it took on too much, multiplying the difficulty of making progress on any one of the deeply polarized issues it addressed. But Gunn-Wright argues that this was its strength: tying together these seemingly distinct causes into a sweeping policy package underscored the connections between them and helped build a broader coalition of supporters behind them.