In Remembrance of Katrina, Why We Must Fight for Climate Justice

Do you remember where you were 10 years ago? For many of us, we were glued to the television. We watched in horror as Hurricane Katrina surged to a Category 5 hurricane as it raced across the Gulf of Mexico, wondering when it would touch U.S. ground and fearing the worst.

Hitting the Gulf coast on the early morning of Aug. 29, 2005, Katrina would soon prove to be one of the most catastrophic storms in American history, causing more than 1,800 deaths and $100 billion in damage.

Fast-forward to today and you’ll find vastly different opinions on the recovery of New Orleans following Katrina’s aftermath. According to a study published this week by Louisiana State University, about four out of five white, Louisiana residents believe the state has mostly recovered from the storm while about three out of five African-American, Louisiana residents believe the opposite—and rightfully so.

Over the past 10 years, only two-thirds of New Orleans’ pre-Katrina residents have returned. Thousands of the city’s most vulnerable people are permanently displaced from their homes with no way of returning or attempting to rebuild their past. Schools, hospitals and social programs that served and supported these communities were devastated and never reinstated.

What has remained constant and a true barrier to fully rebuilding since Katrina in the face of this tragedy is the ever-looming presence of the fossil fuel industry. We know that African-American families are disproportionately affected by climate change and live closer to the sources of pollution that cause climate change: power plants, highways, drilling sites and factories. They suffer increased health impacts such as heart and respiratory diseases, higher health care costs, missed work and school and difficultly with learning. On top of that, climate change continues to drive more extreme weather events such as Superstorm Sandy and record-breaking heat waves—events to which many people of color and low-income communities are defenseless due to financial instability.

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