Camden Voters Must Challenge Leaders on Climate Change

By Rann Miller | Guest Blogger AC JosepH Media

Growing up in Camden, there are a few annoyances that you grow accustomed to; trash left by out of town concert goers, potholes, bridges out of commission like the Baird Boulevard Bridge or the State Street Bridge. Another annoyance: flooding.

There is a saying; when it rains it pours. But in Camden, when it rains it floods. Combined with the potholes and narrow streets, the rain makes travel in the city horrendous and it doesn’t take long for the streets to flood. Imagine trying to drive home while school buses deliver student home and workers from out-of-town leave the city while navigating flooded areas; it’s no fun.

Camden also sits on the Delaware River, along with Philadelphia. What if the Delaware River ever rose above sea level? What would ever cause it to do that? Climate change.

I am no scientist, but here is a brief explanation of what climate change has to do with Camden. We (humans) continue to release greenhouse gases i.e. carbon dioxide, methane and nitrox oxide into the atmosphere. New Jersey is warming up due to this. A few culprits in Camden include the cement plant, the sewage plant and the concrete that surrounds us – which all release CO2. Generally, greenhouse gases are a good thing because they trap heat and thus prevent the sun from consuming us all. However, too much of a good thing can be dangerous.

What’s dangerous is that the waters all over the world have absorbed 90% of the trapped heat collected by these gases. When water gets hot, it expands and when a large body of water expands, it rises. What does that mean for Camden and Philly? It means that it is very possible for the Delaware River to rise above sea level and flood city neighborhoods; displacing thousands. Not to mention, higher sea levels coincide with more dangerous hurricanes and storm surges. Considering what we’ve experienced in recent years, we must pay attention to climate change.

A few weeks ago, MSNBC host Ali Velshi spoke with Columbia University professor, and Hip Hop scholar, Chris Emdin about the subject of climate change. However prior to their discussion, Mr. Velshi posted graphics of what Camden and Philly could look like if the Delaware River was above sea level. The pictures are an eye opener.

What we (humans) release in the atmosphere is important to our ability to live and climate change does impact low-income communities of color. After a natural disaster like a flood or hurricane, communities of color receive less attention and less aid and low-income communities of color may not have the resources or networks to leave for safety, relocate or rebuild. We need only to remember Hurricanes Katrina in LA, Harvey in TX, Irma in FL and Maria in PR as proof.

In addition, consider where toxic facilities are placed. I remember as a kid riding in the car with my grandmother through South Camden asking her why it smelt so bad. It was because of all the pollutants and gases released in the air from those aforementioned toxic facilities. Not surprisingly, race is the number one indicator for the placement of toxic facilities in the United States.

Of the 140 worst schools identified for air pollution in a Journal of Environmental Research study, 11 are in a wedge of south Camden, near the industrialized waterfront. Camden City has the second highest rate of asthma in New Jersey and is impacted by both kidney and lung cancers.

As we approach presidential primary season, and election season in general, voters must hold all political candidate’s feet to the fire about climate change and protecting Camden and places like it. Many of the Democratic candidates for president had something to say about environmental justice and climate change at a recent CNN forum. But I encourage you and all Camden residents to check out the environmental platforms of all local, state and federal candidates for elected office in 2019 and 2020.

Utilize all the tools at your disposal: protest, boycott & the ballot.

Residents of Camden and cities like Camden must apply pressure to state and local officials to ensure that corporations don’t’ further pollute the air with regulations designed to protect people. If they fail to do that, elect them out of office and replace them with folks who will. Because climate change is too important a discussion for communities of color not to involve themselves in.

Bio: Rann Miller directs the 21st Century Community Learning Center, a federally funded after-school program located in southern New Jersey. He spent years teaching in charter schools in Camden, New Jersey. He is the creator, writer, and editor of the Official Urban Education Mixtape Blog. Follow him on Twitter: @UrbanEdDJ.  

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