An advocate for environmental justice says communities of color need to take charge of their own economies to better-prepare for the effects of climate change.
Elizabeth Yeampierre, attorney and executive director of UPROSE, a Latino community-based organization in New York City, made the comment during a talk on climate justice at the University of Rhode Island in Providence Tuesday.
She pointed to the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico as an example of injustice during a crisis that she said typically only impacts communities of color.
Hurricane Maria was an intense storm that knocked out the island’s entire electrical grid six months ago, and thousands of Puerto Ricans are still without power. Tens of thousands of residents were also displaced.
Yeampierre said what happened in Puerto Rico can happen in the continental United States because communities of color are impacted the most and the worst by climate change.
To stop this injustice, Yeampierre said there needs to be more focus on regenerating local economies.
"What that means is that our communities would own the utilities, that our communities would be able to have cooperatives, that they would be able to create systems that move them away from this economy that was built on the extraction of both our land and our labor," Yeampierre said.
Yeampierre said residents and grassroots organizations need to learn from and work with one another to achieve a more just economic system. She advocated for methods like community-owned solar and sustainable local food production.
Yeampierre added, better solutions for addressing the effects of climate change need to come from people of color themselves, not outside groups.
"I think that people need to recognize that it’s not necessarily the people with the degrees who have the information but it’s the people who are close to the ground, and folks with degrees can support that in meaningful and respectful ways," Yeampierre said.