UCS Blog: Dear EPA Staff, We Fixed Your Climate Change Talking Points

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Astrid Caldas is a climate scientist with the Climate & Energy program at the Union of Concerned Scientists.
On Tuesday, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sent a memo to some of its employees with “talking points” regarding climate change science and adaptation. The talking points make some plainly inaccurate claims about climate science and fail to offer employees any guidance about how to talk to communities about climate change adaptation and mitigation. In fact, it does not mention mitigation at all.

In the interest of scientific clarity, I figured I’d make some edits to make the guidance more useful for the states, cities, and tribes that the EPA is supposed to serve. (Original talking points are in black, edits in red.)

The red-lined version below should be helpful in developing not only adaptation, but also mitigation strategies and policies to address the challenges faced when dealing with climate change impacts.


Dear colleagues:

As communities across the country are facing climate impacts every day—from rising seas to more frequent and extensive wildfires to more extreme weather events—it’s important that those communities know we won’t let them down. During the recent meeting of our cross-EPA Work Group on Climate Adaptation, several individuals suggested it would be helpful to develop consistent messages about EPA’s climate adaptation efforts that could be used across all Program and Regional Offices. I’m pleased to report that the Office of Public Affairs (OPA) has developed a set of talking points about climate change that include several related to climate adaptation. These talking points were distributed by Nancy Grantham (OPA) to the Communications Directors and the Regional Public Affairs Directors.

The following are talking points distributed by OPA. I have highlighted those relating They all relate specifically to our adaptation and mitigation work. As the states and communities we serve are most interested in what we do know about climate change and its impacts, we should use the best available science and not overemphasize uncertainty, as we will always have more to learn.

  • EPA recognizes the challenges that communities face in adapting to a changing climate and mitigating its effects.
  • EPA works with state, local, and tribal governments to improve infrastructure to protect against the consequences of climate change and to support the transition to clean, renewable energy resources that will help mitigate climate change and natural disasters.
  • EPA also promotes and adequately funds science that helps inform states, municipalities, and tribes on how to plan for and respond to extreme events and environmental emergencies.
  • Moving forward, EPA will continue to advance its climate adaptation efforts, and has reconvened the cross-EPA Adaptation Working Group in support of these efforts.
  • Human activity impacts our changing climate, primarily due to the burning of fossil fuels in some manner. The ability to measure with precision the degree and extent of that impact is well documented. In fact, we are already seeing climate change impacts today, such as sea level rise, droughts, and extreme weather events and what to do about it, are subject to continuing debate and dialogue(see National Climate Assessment’s Climate Science Special Report and statements from major scientific societies).
  • While tThere has been extensive research and a host of published reports regarding climate change that clearly demonstrate that burning fossil fuels—coal, natural gas, and oil—and deforestation are responsible for the changing climate. Reducing emissions from fossil fuels swiftly and deeply is essential to limiting the impacts of climate change. clear gaps remain including our understanding of the role of human activity and what we can do about it. 
  • As a key regulatory voice, it is important for the Agency to strive for a better understanding of how the changing climate these gaps given their potentially significant influence on our country’s has negative consequences for the domestic U.S. economyie viability.
  • Administrator Pruitt encourages an open, transparent discussion debate on the risks and solutions available to meet the climate challenge, as well as additional research that will make us better prepared to solve the climate crisis. on climate science.

Please note that these talking points are guidance only; as an EPA subject matter expert, your responsibility is to communicate truthfully and accurately. The EPA Scientific Integrity Policy states that when “dealing with science, it is the responsibility of every EPA employee to conduct, utilize, and communicate science with honesty, integrity, and transparency, both within and outside the Agency.” The policy also states that employees can “freely exercise their right to express their personal views provided they specify that they are…speaking…in a private capacity.”

Thanks, and best regards to all of you.


Why we marched. #MarchForOurLives

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Last Saturday was powerful, but the real work lays ahead. Our communities face daily gun violence. We need change and can’t wait any longer. Change happens by making sure we have power at the polls in November. So at March For Our Lives, we set out with our Respect My Vote! team of amazing spokespeople and an army of hundreds of volunteers to register young voters.

Vic Mensa and Wanda Durant joined us in D.C. to inspire our volunteers, and Common and Kanye West were at the march showing Hip Hop’s support for the movement. When all was said and done, with our partners Headcount, Rock the Vote and Voto Latino, we registered over 1,500 voters from more than 40 states. That’s power.

This movement is not about political party. It’s about lives and justice for our communities. It’s about empowerment of young people heading to the polls. Make sure you’re ready to create this change by registering to vote.

As we continue to March For Our Lives – lives like Stephon Clark’s – let’s stay focused, stay organized, and prepare for what’s next. Join us, make sure you’re registered and prepared for November.

Check out some of the powerful images from Saturday and make sure you’re prepared for what comes next.

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Hip Hop Caucus and Powerful Coalition Launch “Boot Pruitt” Campaign

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New coordinated effort aims to force Scott Pruitt, the embattled EPA administrator under multiple investigations, from office

To join the campaign to Boot Pruitt visit us online at www.BootPruitt.com or follow us on Twitter at @BootPruitt and #BootPruitt.

Washington D.C. – Ten of the nation’s largest and most influential environmental groups today launched a coordinated campaign to drive Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt from office, calling him a dire threat to Americans’ health and our environment.

The ‘’Boot Pruitt” campaign issued this statement explaining why Pruitt must go: 

“The time has come. In just over one year, Scott Pruitt has taken dozens of actions to ensure the EPA fails in its mission to protect our health and environment; allowed major industrial polluters to dramatically increase the amount of mercury, arsenic, lead and other toxins they can dump into our air and water; turned his back on the dangers from climate change; stamped out science and silenced EPA’s scientists; and wreaked all this damage while spending lavishly on himself, prompting several investigations into ethical breaches. Mr. Pruitt has unquestionably failed the people he’s meant to protect, and failed the standard of ethical conduct required of a public official. We are standing together and standing up for the millions of children and families being exposed to deadly pollution by Scott Pruitt’s dangerous policies.

“Scott Pruitt is unfit for office. His dirty dealings have wasted hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars and endangered the health of millions of Americans across our country. He must go. The ‘Boot Pruitt’ campaign will give voice to the overwhelming number of Americans who disapprove of Pruitt’s actions to put polluters first, highlight the real struggles of communities struggling under Pruitt’s toxic policies, and enlist support for forcing Pruitt from office before he can do more harm and hurt more Americans. It’s time to Boot Pruitt.”

The 10 launch partners are: Hip Hop Caucus, Defend Our Future, Green For All, GreenLatinos, Center For American Progress Action Fund, Sierra Club, League of Conservation Voters, Natural Resources Defense Council, Environmental Defense Fund, and Friends of the Earth.



Episode 3: “Faith x Opportunity x Solutions” [March 27, 2018]

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Air Date: Tuesday, March 27, 2018
Time: 6:00 PM ET / 3:00 PM PT
Listen Live Radio: WPFW 89.3 FM in DC/Maryland/Virginia
Listen Live Online: WPFW.org/radio

Our moral imperative to act on climate change and protect the earth is rooted in faith. There is also an economic imperative to act – job opportunities, entrepreneurship, and a thriving sustainable economy. to comprehensive movement means combining moral obligations and economic obligations. Rev Yearwood and Mustafa Santiago Ali examine building spiritual and financial power together to offer holistic aid to communities at risk. Creative Justice Ministries Executive Director Shantha Ready Alonso and Volt Energy co-founder Gilbert Campbell stop by the studio for Think 100% – The Coolest Show On Climate Change.


In Episode 3 of Think 100%, we’ll explore:


  • Building spiritual and economic power to assist vulnerable communities impacted by pollution and climate change
  • The faith communities’ historic and current efforts to protect our health and planet
  • Entrepreneurial opportunities in the clean energy economy
  • How places of worship are cutting energy costs and being part of the solution


Episode Guests


Shantha Ready Alonso is Executive Director for Creation Justice Ministries, a non-profit organizations represents the creation care and environmental justice policies of major Christian denominations throughout the United States. In her role as Executive Director, Shantha manages cooperation with 38 national faith bodies including Protestant denominations and Orthodox communions as well as regional faith groups, and congregants to protect and restore God’s Creation. She worked for the National Council of Churches from 2008-2013 doing young adult, anti-poverty, and eco-justice ministries. She also served as vice chair of the World Student Christian Federation from 2008-2015. Shantha is a contributing author to For Such a Time as This: Young Adults on the Future of the Church and editor of the anthology: Towards a Global Christian Movement for Eco-Justice: Young Voices from North America. Please visit the Creation Justice Ministries website for more about Shantha and the organization.


Gilbert Campbell is one of the co-founders and principals of Volt Energy, a national renewable energy firm that finances and develops solar projects, electric-vehicle charging stations and energy storage solutions for commercial, government, educational and non-profit institutions. In 2011, Gilbert helped bring solar to the first African American church in Washington D.C. to rely on renewable energy for electrical power.

Gilbert’s passion is driving inclusion in the clean energy sector by providing STEM education and outreach opportunities for young people across the country. Gilbert had the distinction of being recognized during President Obama’s administration, and in 2016, he received the White House Champions of Change Award for his leadership in advancing climate change equity. Gilbert was named to EBONY magazine’s 2014 Power 100 List, which recognizes influential achievements by African-Americans annually. Under Gilbert’s leadership, Volt is a 2014 recipient of Amtrak and The Washington Wizards Pioneer Award, which honors companies that have made a positive impact in their community.

Read more about Gilbert and Volt Energy on their company website.

Join the Conversation

This show is of, by, and for the people – so we need to hear from you! You are vital in the process to improve our communities now and protect future generations. Join the conversation and submit questions for the show using #Think100 on Twitter and be sure to tag us @HipHopCaucus.

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The Seattle Medium: Urgent Impact Of Climate Change On Black Communities

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Urgent Impact Of Climate Change On Black Communities Should Cause Republican Defeat, Black Congressman Says

U. S. Rep. A. Donald McEachin

By Hazel Trice Edney

(Trice Edney Wire) – More than a million African-Americans live within a half mile of existing natural gas facilities and that number continues to grow.

Because of this, many predominately Black communities “face an elevated risk of cancer due to air toxic emissions from natural gas development,” according to a recent report by the NAACP and the Clean Air Task Force (CATF). “Over 1 million African Americans live in counties that face a cancer risk above [the Environmental Protection Agency’s] EPA’s level of concern from toxics emitted by natural gas facilities.”

The report, titled, “Fumes Across the Fence-Line”, concludes, “The air in many African American communities violate air quality standards for ozone smog…And, as a result of ozone increases due to natural gas emissions during the summer ozone season, African American children are burdened by 138,000 asthma attacks and 101,000 lost school days each year.”

It also quotes a 2016 CATF study that “found that ozone smog from natural gas industry pollution is associated with 750,000 summertime asthma attacks in children and 500,000 missed school days. Among adults, this pollution results in 2,000 asthma related emergency room visits and 600 hospital admissions and 1.5 million reduced activity days.”

These health hazards and other environmental atrocities in Black communities around the nation are just some of the reasons that U. S. Rep. A. Donald McEachin (D-Va.) declares that there is a “sense of urgency” as America nears November’s mid-term elections. That urgency, he says, warrants a Democratic takeover of the Republican majority House of Representatives. And, he says, it requires a repudiation of regressive environmental policies by President Donald Trump.

“There’s just no beating around the bush. Our sense of urgency started the day President Trump was sworn in and as he began his assault on the EPA and our environment in general,” McEachin said in an interview with the Trice Edney News Wire. “Whether it was withdrawing from the Paris Accord to the reversal of regulations that affect our water, affect our air, to the attacks on the Clean Power Plan, that’s when our sense of urgency began.”

McEachin is a co-founder of the House Environmental Justice Caucus, which was formed to protect the environment and to call attention to actions and policies that could damage the environment and impact disparately on people of color. For example, President Trump and EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt have proposed cutting the EPA’s budget by 31 percent and cutting the EPA’s environmental justice office. In addition to supporting the cuts, Pruitt has worked to dismantle protections like the Clean Power Plan and the clean car standards, which have significant financial and health benefits for African-American communities.

Meanwhile, Black children are at serious risk simply because of where they live. They are 4.5 times more likely to be hospitalized for asthma, and 10 times more likely to die from asthma than White children. Eighty-three percent of African-Americans support the Clean Power Plan that Trump proposes to abolish. More than 10,000 Black clergy members from around the country signed a statement supporting the Clean Power Plan, calling climate change a “moral issue.”

“We need an administration that understands the impact of environmental injustice on communities of color,” McEachin says. “Our asthma rates from being in the inner cities are higher than the national population elsewhere. We tend to live in urban areas and because heat gets trapped in urban areas and pollutins get trapped in urban areas the effects of climate change and global warming are more acute in our communities. And without an administration that’s sensitive to those needs, we have a lot of problems.” The best way to deal with it is to “win some elections,” he said.

McEachin is not alone in his “sense of urgency.” Rev. Lennox Yearwood, founder/president of the Hip Hop Caucus, has launched a weekly radio show and podcast to “counter attacks on our environment and communities, and advance solutions to climate change”, according to a press release. The show, co-hosted by Mustafa Santiago Ali launched on March 13th on D.C.-based 89.3 FM WPFW, a Pacifica Station.

“From Flint, to Standing Rock, to Puerto Rico, our planet and communities are under attack from environmental injustices, deadly policy decisions, insufficient action on climate change, and an Administration that is moving us backwards,” said Rev. Lennox Yearwood Jr. in a statement. “All people must benefit from the fight for clean air, clean water, and a sustainable planet.

Ali says the radio show will feature “stories from communities facing deadly impacts from pollution and climate change, and conversations with celebrities, artists, activists, youth leaders, Congressional Members, issue experts, and more, the show will break down barriers between issues within the movement for justice and a sustainable planet for all.”

The climate change issue has not specifically been a bread and butter issue as part of the traditional issues of concern to African-Americans. But it appears to be now rising swiftly to the top of the environmental and economic justice agendas.

Late last year, the U.S. Black Chambers (USBC) met with McEachin and other members of the Congressional Black Caucus for a roundtable discussion to address growing concerns about the impact that the repeal of the Clean Power Plan would have on Black-owned businesses and the Black community at-large.

“It’s crucial that Black business owners and community leaders amplify their concerns about the proposed repeal of the Clean Power Plan,” said Ron Busby, USBC president/CEO. “By moving to repeal the Clean Power Plan, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is helping big corporations put profits before the health of our communities.”

McEachin indicated that a key will not only be educating the Black community on the effects of climate change, but on the need for their vote to influence who makes the decisions in Congress and the White House.

“We’ve got the ability to undo some of this damage, but we’ve got to have majorities at least in the House, but also in the Senate to begin that reversal process,” he says. “This is going to take a minute. So people have to remain vigilant. People have to remain energized. What you saw in Alabama, what you saw in Virginia – what I believe you’ll see this year – has to continue at least through 2020 if we’re going to reclaim the ability to protect our environment and protect our communities of color.”


Respect My Vote: Turning Voices into Power at March For Our Lives!

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On Saturday, March 24th, Hip Hop Caucus is joining March For Our Lives to demand an end to gun violence that plagues our country. We stand with the amazing young people who so bravely stepped up after the Parkland shooting to say enough is enough. This movement isn’t about political party, or partisanship, this is about our lives and justice. We need real change for our lives and communities now.

We also want to make sure our voices turn into real power at the ballot box during elections this November and beyond. Through Hip Hop Caucus’ Respect My Vote! campaign, we’ll be on the ground at MFOL events across the countries to make sure young people can exercise their right to vote. Our goal is to make sure that this amazing movement for gun reform carries its momentum into lasting positive change for our communities and country.

Our city teams will be on the ground leading voter registration and pledge operations in five cities: Washington D.C., Detroit, New Orleans, Los Angeles, and Charlotte. Working with hundreds of community volunteers, we’ll be hosting voter registration training sessions prior to the events, then deploying to make sure young people are ready to vote. If you’re going to be in one of these cities, join us.



We want to work on the solutions, not just talk about the problems. We want to see action from our leaders. We are a new generation and we aren’t going to put up with the status quo talk and non-action on gun violence from the people we elect to represent us.

Communities of color, particularly poor communities of color, in many of our cities, deal with daily gun violence and we have been organizing and demanding solutions for decades with a lot less attention than when shootings happen in affluent communities. We have been demonized for the gun violence in our communities. We want all communities heard and gun violence solutions that address the problem everywhere.

Marching together across the country is a powerful way to make our voices heard and our leadership seen. This is democracy in action. But this work work doesn’t stop after we march. The work continues when we vote. The work continues when we go home to our communities and continue to organize and advocate for solutions. The work continues when we contact our elected officials every day and demand they act for us.

Organized people beat organized money every single time. We are building power that threatens the power of the NRA and the corporate interests that buy our lawmakers with their contributions. We are going to show up at the polls this November, we are going to make change happen.

Register to vote right now at RespectMyVote.com. It only takes two minutes!

Over the past 10 years, our Respect My Vote! campaign has engaged millions of people across our country. With the help from you and artists like Vic Mensa, T.I., Charlamagne tha God, Keke Palmer, 2 Chainz, Amber Rose, and Future, we have helped the Hip Hop community have power in our democracy.

To keep up with the action, follow us @HipHopCaucus on Twitter/Instagram/Facebook. More information is at March for Our Lives and Respect My Vote!.  





Hip Hop Caucus Empowering Young Voters at March For Our Lives

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Respect My Vote! campaign conducting non-partisan onsite voter registration and voter pledge operations in five cities across the country to turn advocacy into power at the polls

Washington, D.C. – On Saturday, March 24th, Hip Hop Caucus is joining March For Our Lives to demand an end to the gun violence that plagues communities across the country. Through Hip Hop Caucus’ Respect My Vote! Campaign, non-partisan voter registration and voter pledge engagement operations will take place in five major cities to ensure young people are able to exercise their power in our democracy during the upcoming midterm elections and beyond. The five cities are: Washington D.C.; Detroit, MI; New Orleans, LA; Los Angeles, CA; and, Charlotte, NC.

Hip Hop Caucus’ objective is to make sure that this powerful movement for gun reform carries its momentum into lasting positive change for communities on the frontlines of gun violence.

In the 20th century, freedom fighters fought for equality. In the 21st century, we are fighting for existence as we march for our lives,” said Rev. Lennox Yearwood Jr., Hip Hop Caucus President and CEO. “We stand in solidarity with the amazing young people who so bravely stepped up after the Parkland shooting to say enough is enough. And, we stand in solidarity with the community activists and leaders in Black, Brown and Native communities who have been demanding action on gun violence for years with much less attention. This is a turning point and young people will be going to the polls this November demanding gun reform.”

Hip Hop Caucus supports the March For Our Lives call to enact common-sense gun reform including banning the sale of assault weapons, prohibiting the sale of high-capacity magazines, closing the loophole in our background check law, creating violence prevention programs, and ensuring mental health access for those impacted by exposure to gun violence. To achieve these reforms, Hip Hop Caucus is mobilizing young people who are supporting the March For Our Lives movement to register to vote, start or join voter registration drives, urge elected leaders at all levels of government to pass meaningful gun reform legislation, and support efforts to keep guns off school campuses and out of communities.  

Hip Hop Caucus has been engaged for over a decade in advocacy and educational efforts to address the disproportionate effects and daily impacts of gun violence in vulnerable communities, including urban communities and communities of color. Hip Hop Caucus continues to engage in sustained advocacy focused on engaging local, state and federal government officials, grassroots organizations, cultural influencers, and community leaders in an effort to enact and improve policies to reduce and prevent gun violence.

Solutions to reducing gun violence also come from communities that experience it firsthand. That is why Hip Hop Caucus recently teamed up with the multi-platinum Grammy Award-winning recording artists Black Eyed Peas for the release of their new single and video, “Street Livin”, that drives awareness and a call to action on issues largely impacting communities of color, including gun violence. The call to action on gun violence for the project was put together in partnership with national organizations also led by millenials and people of color, to implement proven strategies to reduce gun violence in cities across the United States.

Respect My Vote! was first launched by Hip Hop Caucus in 2008 and has since engaged millions of people during election cycles throughout the United States. Through partnerships with nonprofits, businesses, media and entertainment companies, and celebrity spokespeople, the non-partisan campaign focuses on voter registration, voter education, get-out-the-vote, and voter rights. Spokespeople have included Vic Mensa, T.I., Charlamagne tha God, Keke Palmer, 2 Chainz, Amber Rose, Future, and hundreds of other artists and community leaders.


Press Note: Photo ops and in-person interviews available to reporters in Washington, DC, Charlotte NC, Detroit MI, Los Angeles CA, and New Orleans LA, or over the phone with national leaders and young people who have been personally impacted by gun violence and are organizing for solutions, action from lawmakers, and mobilizing their peers to the polls this November. Feel free to contact me to arrange an interview or cover our activities on Saturday (mark@w0c.71c.mwp.accessdomain.com).

Hip Hop Caucus is a national nonprofit, nonpartisan organization established in 2004 that uses the power of Hip Hop culture to engage and empower young people and communities of color in the civic and political process. Follow us @HipHopCaucus on Twitter/Instagram/Facebook. More at HipHopCaucus.org.


Episode 2: “Uniting Our Power for Positive Change” [March 20, 2018]

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Episode Overview

The environmental movement needs to unite and become broader to reach its full potential. Hosts Rev Yearwood and Mustafa Santiago Ali talk breaking down silos between progressive movements in order to build a more diverse, impactful movement. Former EPA Administrator Carol Browner, Equitable Solutions Senior Advisor for Environmental Justice Vernice Miller-Travis, and GreenLatinos Executive Vice President and COO Amanda Aguirre join the conversation on Think 100% – The Coolest Show On Climate Change. 

Topics Covered


  • Breaking down silos between movements: Dream Act, March For Our Lives, Climate Justice

  • Women’s History Month: diversity and inclusion within the green movement

  • Recent extreme attacks on the Environmental Protection Agency in perspective

  • Shout outs and Actions you can take

Join the Conversation


This show is of, by, and for the people – so we need to hear from you! You are vital in the process to improve our communities now and protect future generations. Join the conversation and submit questions for the show using#Think100 on Twitter and be sure to tag us @HipHopCaucus



Carol M. Browner is the former Administrator of the United States Environmental Protection Agency during the Clinton Administration, serving from 1993-2001. Browner also served as the director of the White House Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy during the Obama Administration, where she oversaw the coordination of environmental, energy, climate, transport, and related policy across the U.S. federal government. She now is a Senior Counselor at the Albright Stonebridge Group, and serves as chair of the Board of the League of Conservation Voters.



Vernice Miller-Travis is the Senior Advisor for Environmental Justice and Equitable Development at Skeo Solutions. She also is a part of Skeo’s Community Planning and Revitalization team. With 30 years of fighting for environmental justice throughout the United States, Miller-Travis is a recognized leader in both civil rights and environmental enforcement. Her work supports federal, state, local and neighborhood efforts to advance community revitalization via brownfields and Superfund site remediation and redevelopment, urban waters restoration and area-wide planning through collaborative problem solving, building cultural competence, and cross-cultural conflict mediation. Twitter: @HarlemGirl59 Skeo Solutions Twitter: @skeosolutions Web: skeo.com


Amanda Aguirre is the Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of GreenLatinos. Amanda has built a career that spans high-level national community organizing, coalition building, policy advocacy, political campaigns, and grassroots organizing. Amanda has experience in policy and public engagement at the White House and EPA, most recently serving the Director of Public Engagement at the Climate Action Campaign, and prior to that served as EPA’s Acting Director of Public Engagement and Environmental Education in the Obama Administration. Through her work with local and national Latino groups, federal agencies, state and local government, and advocacy organizations she comes with a wealth of expertise and strong personal commitment to serve the GreenLatinos membership. Twitter: @GreenLatinos Website: GreenLatinos.org

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Mustafa Santiago Ali Op-Ed in Blavity: “Get Into Good Trouble”

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John Lewis’s Advice For Defending Our Health and the EPA: ‘Get Into Good Trouble’

Mustafa calls out the environmental injustice and disservice the Trump Administration is exhibiting by its attempts to undermine the public health protections and programs many families of color rely on.

This article was originally posted March 19, 2018, on Blavity.com 

In 2014, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) celebrated the 20th anniversary of a historic Presidential Executive Order (E.O.12898) declaring action on environmental justice. The guest of honor was Congressman John Lewis, a legendary civil rights champion and an environmental justice advocate. In 1992, he introduced the Environmental Justice Act, the first piece of legislation dedicated to abolishing racial disparities, environmental protection applications. Soon after, the environmental justice program at EPA was established—an office I worked in for almost 25 years.

But given the Trump administration’s intentional neglect of the most basic of EPA’s mandates, I left the agency, and joined the Hip Hop Caucus. We and our partners are committed to transforming our communities from ‘surviving to ‘thriving’. And that means defending against the injustices of pollution and disinvestment.

And the truth is, some injustices are easier to see, like signs hanging above a water fountain or on a bathroom door. Under the surface, systemic harm disproportionately undermining black and brown families continues to fester, demands more thoughtful attention than ever before.

Let’s take the tragic story of Freddie Gray, for example. It’s been a few years since young Freddie Gray died in the back of a police van in Baltimore, Maryland. His death sparked conversation about police brutality, and the criminal justice system. But the untold story is one of unfair environmental harm. It turns out, Freddie grew up in the projects in Baltimore, and was exposed to lead paint chips as a child. Science tells us that exposure to lead at that age seriously inhibits brain development, leading to increased academic struggles and higher rates of youth run-ins with the law. We currently have over one million kids who are suffering from lead poisoning.

When the Trump Administration undermines public health protections and programs families like Freddie’s rely on, communities of color suffer the most. Our safety and our health the first rung on any letter of opportunity. The President and his backers have posed historically deep cuts to cornerstone environmental justice programs and the stripping of grant dollars dedicated to ensuring safe water to drink and clean air to breathe, all while our children suffer from more asthma, our families are exposed to more toxic chemicals, and our neighborhoods deal with higher levels of contaminated water.

A recent investigation into water contamination around the country identified more than 3,000 neighborhood areas with recently recorded childhood lead poisoning rates at least double those found across Flint, Michigan, during the peak of that city’s water contamination a few years ago. In fact, more than 1,000 of those ‘hotspots’ have a rate of elevated blood lead levels higher than Flint’s.

Whether it’s his political delay of the Waters of the United States rule meant to keep sources of drinking water safe from harm—or continual blockage of having EPA do the job Congress gave it to do, Trump’s actions put us in real, measurable danger.

On the heels of Black History Month, we’re reminded that the environmental movement and the civil rights movement are two sides of the same coin: EPA was born from an all-too-familiar compulsion to fight for basic rights—the right to clean air to breathe, clean water to drink, and healthy land to raise our families.

As he spoke to EPA staff in 2014 upon receiving his award, Congressman Lewis recounted his first recollection, as a young boy in Jim Crow Alabama, seeing entry signs and water fountains labeled ‘colored’ and ‘white’. I was there in the room when he described it in detail. He remembers asking his family why such discrimination existed: “They said, ‘That’s just the way it is. Don’t get in the way. Don’t get in trouble.’”

Today, in this new era of anti-science, racially charged political leadership, as environmental health injustices deepen their roots in black and brown communities, we must endeavor—like generations past—to give voice to the voiceless and fight for a more equitable future.

At the end of his talk at, John Lewis said to all of us in the room: “thank you for getting in the way. Thank you for getting in trouble – good trouble. It’s the necessary thing to do.”

Let’s take a page out of Congressman Lewis’s book. Let’s keep getting into good trouble.


About the Author: Mustafa Santiago Ali is a renowned national speaker, policy maker, community liaison, trainer, and facilitator. Mr. Ali specializes in social and environmental justice issues and is focused on a utilizing a holistic approach to revitalizing vulnerable communities. He joined the Hip Hop Caucus after working 24 years at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), where he most recently served as Senior Advisor for Environmental Justice and Community Revitalization. Throughout his career he has worked with over 500 domestic and international communities to improve people’s lives by addressing environmental, health, and economic justice issues. For more from Mustafa, please be sure to check out Mustafa’s latest appearance on AM Joy, video interview with Robert Reich, and interview on the Politically Re-Active podcast with Kamau Bell and Hari Kondabolu. You can also keep up with him on Twitter (@EJinAction).



Episode 1: “Inaugural Episode! Environmental Justice 101” [March 13, 2018]

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Episode Overview

What is Environmental Justice? Hosts Rev. Lennox Yearwood Jr. and Mustafa Santiago Ali are joined by three leaders to discuss the history of the movement and what it means for moving our most vulnerable communities from ‘surviving to thriving’. Guests include United States Congressman Donald McEachin (VA-04), the “father of Environmental Justice” Dr. Robert Bullard, and WE ACT for Environmental Justice Director of Federal Policy Dr. Adrienne Hollis in the inaugural episode of Think 100% – The Coolest Show On Climate Change.


Topics Covered
  • Welcome to “Think 100%, Coolest Show on Climate Change”! 
  • Putting Environmental Justice in Perspective
  • Environmental Justice in the 21st Century – are we moving backwards?
  • Resistance and Persistence: Efforts to Address Environmental Justice in Communities and Congress
  • How do we win? Power of the People.


Join the Conversation

This show is of, by, and for the people – so we need to hear from you! You are vital in the process to improve our communities now and protect future generations. Join the conversation and submit questions for the show using #Think100 on Twitter and be sure to tag us @HipHopCaucus


Special Guests

Congressman Donald McEachin represents Virginia’s 4th district, covering much of the area between Richmond and Hampton Roads. As a member of the House Committee on Natural Resources, Mr. McEachin serves as the Ranking Member of the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee and sits on the Subcommittee on Federal Lands. Mr. McEachin also sits on both the Readiness and the Seapower and Projection Forces subcommittees under the House Armed Services Committee. Mr. McEachin is committed to being a progressive champion who leads efforts that will promote equality, curb gun violence, protect our environment, and advocate for military personnel and their family members.

In May 2017, he announced the start of the United for Climate and Environmental Justice Task Force with fellow co-chairs Congresswoman Nanette Diaz Barragán (CA-44) and Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal (WA-07). 

Twitter: @RepMcEachin



Dr. Robert Bullard, often described as the “father of environmental justice,” is the distinguished professor of urban planning and environmental policy in the Barbara Jordan-Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs at Texas Southern University. He is the author of 18 books that address climate justice, environmental racism, sustainable development, and other topics. Robert has been the recipient of numerous awards and honors, including from CNN, the American Bar Association, the National Wildlife Federation, the Sierra Club, and others. In 2014, the Sierra Club named its new Environmental Justice Award after him.





Dr. Adrienne Hollis is the Director of Federal Policy at WE ACT for Environmental Justice. Dr. Hollis is an experienced environmental toxicologist as well as an environmental attorney. She has worked with a number of community organizations and has a wealth of experience in community-based participatory research around environmental justice issues.




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