By Tonya Calhoun and Almeta E. Cooper | Word In Black

(WIB) – For far too long, Black and Brown communities in Georgia and across the nation have been subject to discrimination that has disproportionately exposed us to toxic levels of pollution in our air, soil, and water. 

Make no mistake about it, we’ve come a long way. The Clean Air Act secured key protections, and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act have created historic opportunities to get funding to the communities that need it most — but there is still so much work to be done.

We need leadership that understands the seriousness of the climate crisis and the action it demands to protect some of our most vulnerable Georgians: our children. We must elect a leader who understands the difference between clean air and pollution.  

We need leadership that understands the seriousness of the climate crisis and the action it demands.

This election is about harnessing our power and making our voices heard to better protect our communities from the harsh realities of the overdependence on dirty fossil fuels, extreme weather events, poor air quality, worsening childhood asthma rates, and unstable energy prices.  

There are many tools in the toolbox we can use to get ahead of the climate crisis, and we need every single one. Climate change is a threat multiplier, exacerbating existing public health burdens and vulnerabilities for people of color, low-wealth areas, and Indigenous communities in Georgia — but it doesn’t have to be this way. 

Dr. Tonya Calhoun

One successful strategy has been to address transportation pollution — the leading cause of air pollution in the U.S. Under President Biden’s leadership, there has been cause for celebration with the recent EPA announcement of federal funding that is bringing more than 120 clean buses to 14 school districts in Georgia, including Atlanta Public Schools through the Clean School Bus Program. 

We must continue to meet the moment at the ballot box by electing leaders who will vote in favor of bold climate action in all levels of government.  

Georgia must elect leadership that understands the systemic inequities and devastating consequences of climate injustice on Black and Brown Georgians.

The choice is clear, we can continue the progress we’ve made to implement environmental justice protections and lower air pollution with clean vehicles and clean energy. 

Almeta E. Cooper

Or, we can let the polluters win by deprioritizing lead pipe replacement or rolling back electric school bus funding and air quality monitoring — huge steps forward made possible by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act.

Georgia must elect leadership that understands the systemic inequities and devastating consequences of climate injustice on Black and Brown Georgians. We demand a leader who has the will and determination to prioritize community-led climate solutions and shape policies that will continue to strengthen a healthy, resilient, equitable future for generations to come. 

Dr. Tonya Calhoun is the Senior Manager for Community Engagement at the Environmental Defense Fund, a Georgia native and Spelman College Alumna who specializes in growing national, people-centered, community-based climate solutions.

Almeta E. Cooper, Moms Clean Air Force National Manager for Health Equity lends her expertise in health equity and environmental justice to all aspects of Moms Cle