George Floyd, and to advocate for addressing systemic racism that continues to exist in our
community and endangers Black lives. The death of George Floyd should be viewed in the
context of other recent killings of Black people, including emergency medical technician
Breonna Taylor, while sleeping in her home, by Louisville police who broke into the wrong home
looking for someone who was already arrested, and Ahmaud Arbery, murdered while jogging by
white supremacist vigilantes. We also mourn the death of Tony Robinson, an unarmed 19-year
old, who was shot and killed by Matt Kenny, a Madison police officer, on March 6, 2015. The
Sustainable Madison Committee joins with those who seek to dismantle white supremacy, and
advocates for systemic reform on the use of deadly force by law enforcement agencies and an
increased review of discriminatory practices that infer a racial bias.
The criminal injustice system is bad for public and planetary health. Due to structural
racism, which is a persistent form of environmental violence and a societal plague, Black people
bear disproportionate health impacts from environmental and climate injustices, such as
exposure to industrial pollution, heat waves, and flooding - putting people at higher risk for other
health crises, such as the COVID-19 pandemic. Accordingly, Black people are significantly more
concerned about the climate crisis and other environmental health issues than White people
(Ballew et al., 2020).
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Historically and currently, Black people provide critical leadership in protecting the health
of our planet (EPA, 2020; Hip Hop Caucus, 2020; NAACP, 2020). However, structural racism,
mass incarceration, state violence, and police brutality are deadly, dangerous, and exhausting,
preventing many Black leaders from working on environmental and climate justice because their
immediate survival is constantly being threatened. People who care about the health of our local
environment and planet must actively support transformation of the criminal justice system. This
includes transformation in policy and practices that simultaneously build up communities and
dismantle the parts of policing that allow officers to commit crimes with impunity. (The
Opportunity Agenda, 2016).
While it is crucial to speak out against racism, mass incarceration, and police violence, it
is not enough. We must continue to listen to, learn from, fund, and amplify Black people and
organizations. To start with, if you are in a financial position to lift up organizations doing the
work, please donate to Freedom Inc., Urban Triage, and Free the 350 Bail Fund .
If you want to learn more about environmental and climate justice work, check out the NAACP, Climate Justice
Alliance, and Hip Hop Caucus .
The Sustainable Madison Committee recognizes that we have historically been silent
while Black people have suffered and we are entering the fight for Black lives by committing to
take thoughtful and collaborative action to respond in all the ways that Black people can't
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breathe, such as advocating to transform the criminal injustice system in solidarity with the Black
Lives Matter movement and urging the City of Madison Common Council to vote in favor of
legislation that supports Black people, their safety, and their health. If we do not actively work to
dismantle systems of oppression and white supremacy, then the environment will continue to
burn around us and the City of Madison will never be sustainable, let alone survive. Let us
engage this emergent moment in a way that accelerates making our vision for a more equitable
and sustainable world a reality .
Members of the 2020 Sustainable Madison Committee
Ballew, M., Maibach, E., Kotcher, J., Bergquist, P., Rosenthal, S., Marlon, J., and Leiserowitz, A.
(2020). Which racial/ethnic groups care most about climate change?. Yale University and
George Mason University. New Haven, CT: Yale Program on Climate Change Communication.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. (2020) Environmental justice.
Hip Hop Caucus. (2020) https://hiphopcaucus.org/
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. (2020) Environmental justice .
The Opportunity Agenda. (2016) Transforming the system.
- Stacie Reese, 608-261-9823, firstname.lastname@example.org
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