Environmental justice: NAACP takes on the fossil fools who deny climate change

  • Published on April 15th, 2019

To recap, in an earlier post explained how corporate interests and state power are converging to control political opposition (“Climate change deniers whine about Twitter bullying (while dictators murder environmentalists“), and here we see how state security forces are failing to properly reckon with racism, and in fact appear to potentially perpetuate it. Together, these trends along with increasing white nationalist violence and billionaire-funded fake news propaganda portends an incredibly worrisome rise of fascism.

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By Climate Denier Roundup

How, then, do we fight this interconnected rise of racism, fascism and fake news? As it turns out, there happens to be a community that’s been on the frontlines of that fight since day one.

Jason Stanley is the author of a book on “How Fascism Works.” (He’s also written one on “how propaganda works” that we’ve talked about before.) At the end of a lengthy discussion on the issue last October, Stanley pointed out:

“Black Americans have been fighting the problem of fake news forever.”

For hundreds of years, millions of Americans were force-fed a steady diet of lies by their government, the media, their neighbors and industry writ large. Perhaps the rest of the country, especially the white liberal environmental class, can learn a thing or two from a community who has dealt with constant brutality, oppression and deception that too many are only now, thanks to Trump, taking seriously.

Fortunately, the NAACP released a report this month that may help. Titled “Fossil Fueled Foolery,” the report illustrates (literally, with cartoons) ten key propaganda tactics  the fossil fuel industry uses to protect its polluting profits, along with ten things frontline communities can do to fight back.

Key among them are resisting attempts by the industry to co-opt minority communities. A prime example: according to the report, Peabody Coal financially supported the St. Louis, Missouri NAACP branch until it criticized the negative repercussions of the company’s coal on their community to the EPA. Then the checks stopped coming.

We shouldn’t have to remind you that air pollution, like that from fossil fuel use, disproportionately harms communities of color. And, as you may remember from Stanley’s work, co-option is a classic propaganda technique of emulating an ideal (in this case, protecting minority communities) with the express purpose of undermining it (because coal use hurts those communities most).

So what can the environmental community do to better reach out to black Americans? How can we not only learn from their experiences with oppression and deception, but also bring them more fully into the fight to protect the planet and people on it, while cleaning up the pollution that plagues their communities? Especially considering that pollution comes from industrial activity that grows an existing economic disparity ultimately rooted in the fact that so much of white America’s wealth was built on the backs of slaves?

One way to begin to do all that, New Republic’s Emily Atkin pointed out, would be to include reparations as part of the Green New Deal.

But then again, while correcting systemic oppression might engage tens of millions of people of color in the debate, it’s not going to win many fans among the ever-so-important voting bloc of centrist white male pundits.

You can download the NAACP report here.

(Crossposted with DailyKos. Cartoon by Tom Toles from the Washington Post – get his book on climate change co-written with Michael Mann, The Madhouse Effect.)

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