A few years ago, I was invited by a group of Harvard scholars, well-known scientists, and clergymen to visit Alaska. Our visit was to investigate the effects of climate change in that state. Alaska is unique by virtue of the fact that its environment is so varied that one can observe everything from regime change of insects, the melting of glaciers, the erosion of islands, and the change in spawning patterns of salmon. I left the trip concerned that green-activists would overstate genuine changes that were happening and force the nation into non-productive reactions to what are our real problems.
After I returned home, I did further research asking the following question. How can we satisfy the scientists’ concerns while producing a genuine return on our investment? Yet I was shocked to find out that very often the poor are not actually considered in the strategic planning of projects.
Therefore, two years ago I joined several civil rights organizations that developed a poignant campaign called “Stop the War on the Poor!” To the surprise of media who attended to our first press conference, our target was not the banking industry or automobile industry. We wanted to send the message to environmental leaders that our own domestic poor must be considered in this critical time. We wanted to raise a warning that the green supporters who promoted measures to drive up energy costs as a way of “forcing” conservation were hurting the impoverished.
Driving up energy costs is a course of action that economically traumatizes “the last and the least” of America’s citizens - the poor. One of the great limitations to recommending ideologically based solutions to the nation's macro problems is that there are always unintended consequences to these solutions.
The Environmental Protection Agency asserts that changes in our climate could produce the following: • Higher concentrations of ozone at ground level • Drought • Heavier rain downpours resulting in flooding • An increase in incidence and intensity of heat waves resulting in wild fires • A swell in sea level • Damage to our water sources, our food supply, wildlife and the attached ecosystems • Grave implications to our national security
The EPA also contends that climate variations would impact the health of specific groups of people disproportionately. These groups include the poor, seniors, infants, those who have existing health challenges, disabled individuals, people who live alone, and those population groups who depend on just a few resources.
Bishop Harry Jackson is chairman of the High Impact Leadership Coalition and senior pastor of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, MD, and co-authored, Personal Faith, Public Policy [FrontLine; March 2008] with Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council.