By Joshua Burrell, Staff Writer
Over 2000 community leaders, activists and students travelled from all over the world for the three-day Climate Reality Project Convention at the Georgia World Congress Center on March 14. Guests came to understand how to correct the current climate crisis while encouraging environmental justice in Black and Brown communities.
The convention included panel discussions led by former Vice President Al Gore, presentations on climate change statistics, and even a guest appearance by comedian Pete Davidson.
Gore spoke at the afternoon press conference and at “A Moral Call to Action on the Climate Crisis” discussion in the evening at Ebenezer Baptist Church. Other speakers included President of the Poor People’s Campaign Bishop William J. Barber II, Senior Pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church the Rev. Dr. Raphael G. Warnock ’91, Southeast Regional Representative of Indigenous Environmental Work Mary Crowe, Roswell Community Masjid Imam Arshad Anwar, Dr. Gerald L. Durley, community organizer Danielle Bailey-Lash and interfaith religious leaders of every race from across the country.
“We can’t let people divide us on lines of race, or income or political affiliation,” Gore said.
The Climate Reality Project Convention was both harrowing and hopeful. In Gore’s slideshow presentation, it was stated that the Earth’s future is in jeopardy due to years of manmade pollution regulated by people who profit from it. Panelists agreed that urbanization has contributed to greenhouse gas emissions that increase global temperatures and cause catastrophic weather that destroys poor communities.
After addressing how industrialization has affected Earth, Gore presented three questions to humanity: Must we change? Can we change? And, will we change?
“Evidence is necessarily hard to take on board,” Gore said. “Consequences are severe and many people suffer.”
Panelists said impoverished and poor communities disproportionately suffer from the effects of pollution and climate change. Emissions from factories and pipelines endanger nearby communities and proliferate ozone deterioration. Black and Brown communities in America are targeted because of low property values in urban areas which allow large corporations to buy land and exploit communities by promising jobs in dying fossil fuel industries.
“They’ve kept us poor and polluted us,” GreenArmy founder Lt. Ret. Russel L. Honore said. “What’s a trade-off? A job or your child’s health?”
Speakers at the convention agreed that fighting environmental injustice begins with organizing but ultimately relies on voting. They said the climate crisis results in part from consumers’ overconsumption of fossil fuel energy, and politicians and business owners making short-term decisions for individual long-term capital benefits.
Gore, Warnock and Barber believe that conscientious voting is the solution to self-centered politics. More people, specifically younger and impoverished groups, need to vote, but voter suppression strategically disenfranchises Black and Brown communities.
“One reason for voter suppression and evil doing is to prevent people of color from getting to the ballots,” Gore said. “It’s a way to let in pollution to these communities. To solve the climate and pollution crisis, we need to solve the democracy crisis.”
Regardless of social differences, every voice behind the pulpit spoke with hope that global communities unite for a healthier Earth. They believed that by organizing in favor of sustainable energy and advocating for voter equality, there’s still hope for the planet.
“We only have one Earth,” Rabbi Lydia Medwin said. “We’re only one people on one Earth.”
The consensus among the speakers was the bottom line is for humanity to survive on Earth, everyone must change their approaches to energy consumption, nutrition, politics and community before it’s too late.