Global warming has become a hot topic in the U.S. Congress. Several bills now pending with lawmakers address how to reduce the carbon emissions responsible for climate change. A coalition of leaders from Latino, African-American and faith communities recently came to Washington to urge lawmakers to incorporate their concerns into proposed climate-change legislation.
The two-day lobby session begins with a pep talk from Kathleen Rogers, President of Earth Day Network, a group that promotes grassroots environmental activism year round and sponsor of the event. She tells the leaders any new legislation, "When it passes, [must not be] owned by corporations or by people who feel that we must rush through the process and get something done."
Irma Munoz founded "Mujeres de La Tierra" or "Women of the Earth" to address local environmental and health problems in Los Angeles. She says her neighbors talk about why their gardens are not producing or why oil wells are being drilled in their backyards. "We are all very upset about it."
Congresswoman Hilda Solis shares these concerns in Washington, where she represents a majority Latino section of East Los Angeles. Solis says she is working to prevent climate change from unfairly targeting communities like the one she serves.
Robert Bullard of the Environmental Justice Resource Center echoes those sentiments. He reminds coalition partners that by mid-century a majority of Americans will be people of color. "If the policy we make today does not include that potential majority for the future, then we will not be doing justice."
Doing justice, says Reverend Peter Moore-Kochlacs of the Religious Coalition on Creative Care, means taking care of the Earth. "People of faith," he says, "have an ethical obligation, a moral obligation to protect future generations, to protect the integrity of creation, to protect the most vulnerable."
Kathleen Rogers with Earth Day Network says the most vulnerable people are least able to cope with the impact of global warming. She says any new law must drastically cut climate-changing emissions. "No one will be able to pollute. There will be strong caps on CO2 pollution. But most important, we will not grandfather in, or allow to have grandfathered in, the pollution that exists in the United States today."
Rogers says the law should also tax emissions by making polluters buy permits to emit climate-changing green house gases. Funds raised would be directed to alleviate the impact of climate change. "We are proposing that these permits be sold and that that money be used to do everything from provide assistance relief for people that will inevitably be in the way of a hurricane or agriculture disasters."
Rogers also wants coalition partners to push for programs that will open new doors in the evolving green, or environmentally friendly, workforce. "The jobs of tomorrow are going to be green. We want to understand it and have our kids educated on these issues."
Rogers adds that while securing a piece of that action may take time, the most important immediate step in dealing with climate change is for more citizens to express themselves on the issue, and to become involved in the political process.