Environmental Racism is So Last Week Tonight

This week, climate, and more specifically, environmental racism, made it onto Last Week Tonight with John Oliver! Climate has certainly made it onto the late shows before — I even covered it during climate week last September. However, the verdict on those was not great. In contrast, activists have already taken to Twitter (I mean when do we not… seriously, I hope everyone, me included, spends less time scrolling away our sanity) to praise the coverage!

Tonight, I took the time to watch the segment myself, and I was truly impressed! As others have said, John Oliver presented historical background, racial context, statistics, stories, and elevated the voices of people who are most affected. In short, he did exactly what he was supposed to do. That shouldn’t be groundbreaking, but since it is, I’m thankful.

I didn’t learn about environmental racism until college; some people have to live it their whole lives. I can only hope that this segment helps to raise the profile of their stories so that we can begin to address them. Having the problem presented so starkly, with background for new learners and insightful interviews for subject matter experts, really felt like a landmark moment. We love to see that good climate culture!

So give it a watch. The stories you’ll hear, are truly, as John Oliver says, “pretty f—-ing infuriating,” but they are also inspiring, because of the continued resilience, creativity, and perseverance of communities of color. Rather than lie down and endure this horrific trauma in silence, they’ve defied all odds to go up against major corporations and even end up on a show whose YouTube channel has 8.91 million subscribers! And as an added bonus, it’s even pretty funny.

While you watch, think about how you can work to support those fighting environmental racism (check out the Climate Action Explorer for some ideas), because we will never solve the climate crisis without ending environmental racism as well. Plus, it’s just the right thing to do.

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