By Andy Hale
Of the many things that congregations are considering as they exist in 2020, is not only the COVID-19 Crisis and the ever-present plague of racism within America, but how the faith community relates to the environment around them.
Environmental stewardship is not limited to how we specifically care for the world’s ecosystem. Much of the ecological devastation in America has a strong correlation to a history of racism and classism.
In Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where I live, there is a region of town known as Cancer Alley. It is where the petrochemical industry took over the cane sugar industry. The residents of this region are predominately black.
According to a study done by Ohio State University, “Black Americans are twice as likely to be exposed to air pollution and more likely to be exposed to the most toxic pollution. Even African Americans with higher incomes are exposed to more toxic air than white Americans with lower incomes.”
This area is particularly nasty because it produces a microscopic airborne particle known as PM2.5, emitted from vehicles, power plants, and other dirty industries and can consist of hundreds of different chemicals. They can enter the bloodstream through the lungs causing them to become inflamed. If the exposure to pollution is sustained, that inflammation can spread to other areas of the body like the cardiovascular system.
Environmental racism is not about “acts of racism,” but practices and policies that intentionally and unintentionally have a disproportionate impact on the ecological health of communities where minority populates reside.
Tune in for this week’s conversation, which was recorded live during the 2020 CBF Virtual Assembly as part of the CBF Environmental Stewardship Network Gathering.
Network members had an opportunity to hear from Katherine Smith, Executive Director of the Baptist Creation Care Initiative and member of the Board of Directors for Creation Justice Ministries, and Tina Spencer-Smith, who serves as the Administration Minister for Zion Hill Baptist Church in Atlanta and on the Advisory Council for Georgia Interfaith Power and Light.
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Andy Hale created and hosts the podcast of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. Hale is the senior pastor of University Baptist Church of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, following eight years as the founding pastor of Mosaic Church of Clayton and five years as CBF’s church start specialist. Follow on Twitter @haleandy