Robert Bullard speaks about climate change as a human right to kick off Earth Week

Multimedia Reporting by Ginna Royalty

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Robert Bullard opens the presentation with some jokes about climate change. Photo by Ginna Royalty

Robert Bullard, also known as the “father of environmental justice” spoke to the Elon community about the importance of climate change and bringing justice to everyone in the United States. Bullard has worked to examine the relationships between class, race, urban planning, environmental health and sustainable development.

Bullard has written 18 books on topics ranging from food insecurity to climate to racism. Although they all differ in topics, they are all connected by the ideas of fairness, justice and equity.

“Climate change is more than talking about greenhouse gases and parts per million,” Bullard said. “It’s also about justice—climate justice!”

One of the major points that Bullard discussed is that clean air, water and food are basic human rights, and yet climate change is making it difficult to achieve these things. And unfortunately, according to Bullard, the communities and countries that contribute the least to climate change are going to be hit the hardest by climate change.

Bullard also emphasized that our most vulnerable communities, children and elderly people, are going to be affected the most as well.

A kid’s job is to be outside and play, but it’s not healthy for kids to breathe this air,” Bullard said. “We need to protect the most vulnerable—thats what environmental justice is about.”

Climate ChangeMany students, professors and Elon community members were in attendance for the start of Earth week.

“I thought Bullard brought up some interesting points about a topic that I previously did not know anything about,” said Elon junior Maggie Filipowich. “It is definitely an issue that more people need to become aware of, which starts with them understanding that climate change is real.”

It is no secret that there is more pollution in bigger, metropolitan cities. Bullard highlighted the importance of developing more sustainable, affordable transportation in metropolitan areas. Public transportation is also an important way to cut down on emissions.

“When we talk about the issue of breathing, America is still segregated,” Bullard said. “People of color are exposed to 46 percent more nitrogen oxide than whites.

Bullard gave a lot of other shocking facts, such as that the asthma rate for African Americans is 35% higher than whites.

“The presentation was full of information that painted the startling reality of environmental racism, said Elon junior Sophie Faxon. “However, I wish it had been more action oriented.”

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Bullard discusses the inequality that goes along with climate change. Photo by Ginna Royalty

Bullard also went through maps of the different belts in the United States where climate change is even worse for people that are already vulnerable. This includes minority populations, those who are uninsured and in food deserts and more. According to Bullard, zip codes are the best predictors of health.

At the end of the presentation audience members had time to ask Bullard questions, get books signed and continue the conversation as well as socialize at the Coffee Klatch in the Moseley Kitchen.

For more Earth Week 2017 events, check out this page: http://www.elon.edu/e-web/bft/sustainability/ne.xhtml

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