My life has taken me from a childhood in the burning Bronx to the Arctic Circle, through ghettos large and small, and to places I didn’t even know existed until I was well into my adulthood.
All those experiences—for which I am very grateful—are not just enlightening for me as a person. Collectively, these experiences become a responsibility that I am happily obligated to carry into as many places as I can. Halls of both power and powerlessness benefit from the exchange in ways that I hope will lead to world peace.
Really, I actually believe world peace is tied up in environmental equality for everyone. It’s not going to solve all our environmental or our equality problems overnight, but it is a cornerstone toward building the kind of world I know we can achieve.
I often find myself working with academics, scientists, and other leaders on climate change mitigation issues. And often I find myself occupying the “diversity” (I’m black) or “equity” (I’m not rich) track in such forums.
It’s great that more and more people in positions of influence are now agreed that these are important aspects to be included in more and more places. The next step is realizing that putting these issues into silos is tantamount to keeping them in an intellectual ghetto.
If we insert the argument for equality in every important discussion, we will benefit in many ways. So I often put forth a small questionnaire of yes-no questions to leading scientists from around the U.S. with whom I collaborate. It looks like this:
1. Do you believe that some people should breathe dirtier air than others?
2. Do you believe that some people should drink contaminated water?
3. Do you believe environmental burdens are equally distributed throughout the U.S. population?