Members of the Congressional Black Caucus are trying to get young African-Americans excited about fighting climate change.
“When you think of environmentalists, people think of, quite frankly, some white person, probably wearing Birkenstocks or something and tying themselves to a tree,” Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) said Friday during a press call.
The African-American community is disproportionately affected by climate change because more black people live in urban areas that face the greatest exposure to air and water pollution, said Ellison, who was joined by Rep. André Carson (D-Ind.).
The two lawmakers, both members of the Congressional Black Caucus, plan to encourage young African-Americans to take a greater interest in fighting climate change as part of a six-college tour organized by the non-congressional Hip Hop Caucus, which will highlight the effects climate change has on black communities.
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy also plans to make an appearance on the tour.
Ellison and Carson plan to raise awareness about the health effects of climate change on the African-American community. They pointed out that black communities tend to suffer from more asthma cases.
The Department of Health and Human Services reports that African-Americans are 20 percent more likely than white people to have asthma.
These communities are also more vulnerable to natural disasters, the lawmakers said.
This, in turn, can prevent people from going to work and children from going to school, leading to fewer economic opportunities, they said.
“If you've ever wondered about test scores between black students and white students, if you've ever wondered about health disparities, if you've ever wondered about who gets to make it through the flood and the big bad storm and who doesn't, you really don't have to look any further than this issue of climate change,” Ellison said.
During the press call, the two lawmakers called for the Obama administration to reject the Keystone XL oil pipeline and for the EPA to move forward with new rules for power plants, two of the most heated rules surrounding climate change.
Ellison and Carson hope to recruit more members of the Congressional Black Caucus to join the tour.
The tour will begin next Thursday at Hampton University in Virginia and includes stops at Howard University in Washington, D.C., Wayne State University in Detroit, Central State University in Ohio, North Carolina A&T and Clark Atlanta University.