No one likes thinking about climate change. There’s a reason every supernatural villain these days is a thinly-veiled allegory to a rapidly warming earth (looking at you, White Walkers). But unfortunately, it’s not the kind of thing any of us can choose to ignore.
Vice President Kamala Harris seems to have gotten that message loud and clear. On Thursday, the VP hit the road along with Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm to discuss the climate crisis at the University of Michigan.
“When I think about the shoulders upon which we stand and where we have arrived,” said Vice President Harris, according to Michigan Live. I think we should all take note of the momentum we have achieved and our responsibility, now sitting in these chairs in this moment, to then continue with this moment and lead, and not waste a minute because we don’t have a minute spare.”
The administration has made massive strides in pushing for policies aimed at combatting climate change.
Last year, President Joe Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act, which included $369 billion in funding to fight climate change and build climate resilient infrastructure.
Harris, who is the first Black and first South Asian Vice President, also went deep on the issue of environmental racism.
“You can look at, for example, the data that tells us that some of the regions in America with the poorest air quality are low income communities and communities of color,” said Harris, according to A4 News. “When you look at rates of asthma, you see correlations. When you look at which communities are suffering the most in terms of extreme weather and therefore need to evacuate, you can see a correlation.”
Harris isn’t pulling these concerns about climate change and environmental racism out of thin air.
Experts like Catherine Flowers, founder of the Center for Rural Enterprise and Environmental Justice, have been ringing the alarm bells about the disproportionate impact of climate change and environmental racism on Black and brown communities.
“We have to build resilience, but we also have to reduce our emissions. You have to do both, it’s not an either or,” said Flowers in an interview with The Root. “Because either can lead to death for all of us.”
We’ve already seen the impact of extreme weather events on under-invested in communities like Jackson, Mississippi, where extreme cold weather events and flooding caused clean water shutdowns for weeks.
Financial investments like the kind championed by the Biden-Harris administration in the Inflation Reduction Act are vital right now, Waikinya Clanton told The Root:
“The approval of federal funds could not have come at a more opportune and urgent time for the city,” says Clanton. “It is now up to the local and state government officials to do their due diligence in ensuring that the people of Jackson get the help and support they need during this highly difficult and uncertain time. We can’t prevent weather, but we can prepare for it.”
Funding alone won’t be enough. In her closing statement, Harris urged the audience to continue pushing for change on a community-wide level.
“Help people get excited about all the opportunities this is going to open up in the midst of crisis,” Harris said, according to Michigan Live. “Even if this crisis was not happening, which it is, it’s about a commitment that our nation and the world should always have to innovation and how we can be smarter.”