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  • Writer's pictureroishetta

The Critical Intersection of Environmental Justice and Public Health

(Kash Ozane, in blue, is my 5yr old son. He suffers from asthma and eczema.)

Hey y'all, let's talk about something really important today - the harms of methane and benzene in communities of color. These two chemicals are incredibly dangerous, and unfortunately, they're often found in higher concentrations in neighborhoods where people of color live.

Methane is a gas that's released during the extraction of oil and gas, and it's a major contributor to climate change. But it's not just a problem for the planet - it's also a problem for people who live near oil and gas wells. Methane exposure can cause headaches, dizziness, nausea, and in extreme cases, even death.

Benzene is another chemical that's commonly found in neighborhoods near oil and gas wells. It's a known carcinogen, which means that it can cause cancer. Benzene exposure has been linked to leukemia and other types of cancer, as well as reproductive problems and immune system damage.

Unfortunately, people of color are often disproportionately affected by these harmful chemicals. This is because oil and gas wells are often located in or near low-income neighborhoods, which are more likely to be home to people of color. This is a form of environmental racism, and it's unacceptable.

(Westlake Chemical-Sulphur, La)

Venture into the heart of any bustling city or the forgotten edges of a once-thriving manufacturing town, and the story is the same. Minority and low-income neighborhoods bear the invisible yet heavy burden of our collective march toward progress. They are the unwilling hosts to factories and refineries, the reluctant inheritors of tainted air and contaminated soil.

Here, children grow up playing in the shadow of smokestacks, their lungs filled with particulates and pollutants that sow the seeds of chronic disease. Asthma inhalers are as common as lunchboxes, and hospital visits are too often a community gathering.

The journey towards environmental justice is not a solitary trek but a collective march toward achieving public health equity. We must dismantle the systemic structures that have left too many with too little—too little clean air, too little uncontaminated water, and too little green space for safe play and community gatherings.

Climate change exacerbates existing health disparities, with extreme weather events and changing disease patterns disproportionately impacting those already vulnerable. The fight against climate change is not just an environmental crusade—it’s a public health emergency. Our warming planet is raising temperatures and raising the stakes for community health.

(Marching to end Fossil Fuels-POWER UP)

We cannot remain passive bystanders in this unfolding story. Our roles as environmental advocates and community activists require us to be the catalysts for change. We must engage in tireless advocacy for policies that ensure cleaner industrial processes, the preservation of our natural green spaces, and the development of sustainable urban environments that uplift every citizen.

The fabric of environmental justice is woven by the countless individual strands of community members who demand to be heard. Engagement is a collaboration of voices—a chorus of diverse tones and pitches, each singing the song of their lived experience, each contributing to a harmonious vision for a healthier, more equitable future.

Knowledge is the light in the darkness of ignorance. By educating ourselves and our communities about the links between the environment and our health, we equip every individual with the power to advocate for change. Workshops, community forums, and school programs are not just events—they are the seeds of a revolution in understanding and action.

In this digital era, we can amplify our voices beyond the town hall meetings and street marches. Social media, blogs, and online forums are our tools to educate, inspire, and mobilize. Through a simple click of a button, we can bring attention to issues that once languished in the shadows, rallying allies across the globe to our cause.

(Kash telling his story)

As an environmental activist, my commitment goes beyond today’s rallies and campaigns. I envision a future where every breath we take is a testament to our respect for the Earth and each other. A future where every drop of water is a drop of life, unpoisoned by neglect or profit-driven disregard.

As a mom I don't want my fight to be my children's fight. I want them to enjoy outdoors without fear of not being able to breathe. I want them to go to the faucet for water without the fear of being poisoned.

Enough is enough. In this journey, let's pledge to weave a narrative of hope and action. A narrative where the very air we breathe is a source of life, not disease. Where the waters that sustain us are as pure as the aspirations we hold for our children. Where the earth we tread is a sanctuary, not a sacrifice zone.

In solidarity,

Roishetta Sibley Ozane

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1 Comment

Gwendolyn Jones
Nov 07, 2023

Education is power. Industries as well as oil and gas for @100 years has started in the Black and Brown communities as well as low income communities. Theses owners has never been held responsible for the suffering and death of so many innocent people. We were and today consider as collateral damage.

Thank you for keeping me inspired to fight not just from Freeport but Brazoria County.

God has blessed us to come together in love and passion through our suffering, pain and JUSTICE FOR ALL❤️

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