09/16/2014 03:54 pm ET Updated Nov 16, 2014

Environmental Injustice is Personal

For me, environmental injustice is personal.

I grew up in Los Angeles, with older foster brothers and dozens of extended family members who lived across the city. Air quality, and a multitude of other environmental factors, negatively impacted my family's health. I suffered, and still do, from asthma. I know firsthand how the inability to breathe can change one's life.

I used to be one of those people who didn't understand the threat of climate change. I wondered, "Why should global warming matter to me?" When I learned what a warmer world would look like -- especially for people of color and low-income communities -- I was terrified.

Our communities already bear the brunt of dirty air and polluted water. Global warming would bring more disasters like Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy. Already suffering from the ravages of poverty, our communities are the least equipped to bounce back from the types of catastrophic weather events that are fueled by a warming climate.

I've made it my mission to help people of color and vulnerable communities to become informed about the threats they face. Unfortunately, the voices of those most affected by global warming still struggle to be included in the national conversation.

Even in an important year like this one -- when President Obama and EPA Administrator McCarthy have made historic strides in the fight against global warming -- there hasn't been enough information about how people of color feel about these issues beyond speculation and rumor. Green For All has always been dedicated to informing communities and bringing minority voices to the decision-making table; but how were we supposed to help our folks protect their communities without fully understanding how they themselves see the challenges and solutions?

We had to listen before we could speak. So, Green For All conducted its own poll. We asked the important questions and heard the answers for ourselves. We released the results in July when the EPA held public hearings on its proposed carbon pollution rule. We did this so that there would be no mistake about what's needed to engage our folks on the issues.

The results were clear. This is our issue. People of color go beyond just being interested in climate change.

  • We understand the urgency of addressing this problem for the sake of our children's futures.
  • We are optimistic that investment in the green economy will spur economic development and create well-paying jobs.
  • More importantly, we are willing to throw our weight behind candidates who will stand with us on this issue.

It's time for decision makers and politicians to speak directly to us.

  • We are ready for real solutions that will help our environment and our communities.
  • We support the carbon rule and efforts to make our air easier to breathe.
  • And, we won't let misinformation sway us.

We can't miss the boat on climate change; the issue is too important and the stakes are much too high.

It's time to take sides. I know which side we stand on. The side that wants to make sure that our grandchildren have a better world to live in.