It’s gettin’ hot in here

Just within the past two weeks, I have been part of conversations with a range of people — with non-SNRE types, around Detroit living rooms, during carpools, and in sangha discussions, that are speaking with passionate concern and urgency about global warming and climate change. The level of public consciousness about climate change has changed remarkably, and this comes to me with a mixture of surprise, anxiety, and relief. No doubt Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth had something to do with getting the message out to a broader audience, and for many who live in Michigan, the warm weather and lack of snow in January has caught a lot of our attentions. While this year’s unusually warm weather may not be directly attributed to global warming, it is still to hard to ignore the melting ice shelf and decrease in bird migration.

What is missing from some of these conversations is an awareness of the disproportionate impact of global warming among people of color, poor communities and indigenous folks — which is an analysis carried by the Climate Justice movement. As global temperatures increase, these populations may be hit hardest and perhaps were least responsible for the greenhouse gases that are accelerating global warming. Here are some scenarios of what those impacts could be:

  1. Climate change will reduce discretionary spending because prices will rise across the board. Low-income families will have to spend even more on food and electricity, which already represent a large proportion of their budgets.
  2. Indigenous Peoples are losing traditional medicinal plants to a warming climate, and subsistence households are suffering from the loss of species that are unable to adapt.
  3. Climate change harms the health of communities of color and Indigenous Peoples. Communities of color and Indigenous Peoples are burdened with poor air quality and are twice as likely to be uninsured than whites. Yet, these communities will become even more vulnerable to climate-change related respiratory ailments, heat-related illness and death, and illness from insect-carried diseases.
  4. Air pollution already hits people of color especially hard. Over 57 percent of whites, 65 percent of African Americans, and 80 percent of Latinos live in 437 counties with substandard air quality. Global warming is expected to double the number of cities that currently exceed air quality standards.
  5. Climate change will reduce discretionary spending because prices will rise across the board. Low-income families will have to spend even more on food and electricity, which already represent a large proportion of their budgets. (thanks for pointing out that this repeats #1).

There are many groups working diligently on this issue. Admittedly, the pessimist in me feels that all this talk is too little too late, that our human footprints are irreversible. So I can only turn to the hopefulness in me, which asks me to embrace my cynism and fears by looking at how to reduce my own impact, as a person living in the world’s wealthiest country. In the spirit of TNH, I’m committing myself to a No Car Day once a week, and I invite others to do the same, to the extent that they are able.


  1. Can I borrow your car on your “no car day” LOL or will that defeat the purpose? Everyday is no car day for me..and according to the links from the “An Inconvenient Truth” website I have a zero-carbon foot print. Does me well to know I am not contributing to global warming and yet, it does nothing for my social life. LOL. Great post!

  2. Thanks for this important analysis. I heard a discussion on Talk of the Nation today about how the unusually warm weather has been affecting the “cash registers” of different businesses. An ice cream store has been getting more customers; the ski industry has been losing money. It was infuriatingly shallow, and made me think of the slogan “People Before Profits,” which is so often reversed. There also seemed to be a willful denial that the weather could have any serious implications or be tied to global warming at all. The contrast made me appreciate your post even more.

  3. I have been thinking about this topic more recently as well. My friend Kat, rides her bike all around Philly even though she owns a car. She’s convinced me to not drive my car to work everyday. So now, I don’t drive any day of the week Mon-Fri 🙂 I do ride the train, with lots of other people 😦 She hasn’t gotten me on the bike ride yet. I’m working on it. Girl, is in top physical condition I’ll tell you that. I did walk once. It took me an hour and a half!
    Being from Michigan I was happy to get some warm weather in Philly during this time, but the now people from Philly are telling this is just NOT right for even Philly. It’s almost scary.

  4. Hey there,

    I am enjoying your blog posts on environmental justice. I just want to say that your concerns about communities of color and climate change are right on. Plus, all of the industrial air pollution from nasty companies that irresponsibly choose to operate in low income and/or communities of color can also contribute to the global warming problem and the environmental health of the community. As a side note, I work for the National Council of Churches Eco-Justice Program and I just wanted to share with you our new resource on environmental racism for group discussions. The resource can be found and downloaded at: Thanks for your writing. It is great.

  5. jennylx

    I was talking to Mariana about this madness on the way to the LAMPshop last Saturday. She told me the man at the Tacqueria near their house told her that where he’s from in Mexico there’s never been snow. But this year, they’ve had so much snow that it’s killed 40 people.

    On a similar note, I was talking to Angie on one of those days recently when it was 74 degrees in NYC. She was like, “all these people are in fucking party-mode over this weather, and I started wondering… do you think there was a period of time when all the dinosaurs were like ice-skating through the jungles and shit, thinking, ‘man, isn’t this sweet?'”

  6. Thanks for all the great comments. It’s wonderful to read the various anecdotes and actions about this topic. I’m glad folks are noticing/talking/taking action.

    Chloe, I hadn’t heard of NCC before and after browsing through your website, it looks like there are some great initiatives happening through NCC. I tried downloading the EJ resource and will look forward to receiving it and looking at it in more depth!

  1. 1 Michigan activists fighting global warming « wsoft.heart

    […] Press published a pretty good article about local activists in Michigan who are speaking out about global warming through workshops and presentations for community organizations, neighborhood block clubs and […]

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