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Excerpted From: Jacob Z. Bolton, Health in All or Profit for Some: Health and Racial Equity in All Policy for a Just Transition, 20 Journal of Law in Society 315 (Summer, 2020) (Student Note) (219 Footnotes) (Full Document)

JacobBoltonResponding to the local effects of pollution, the climate crisis, and an economy that does not work for U.S. residents, 64 organizations came together at Cass Commons in Detroit to host the Frontline Green New Deal Climate and Regenerative Economic Policy Summit in July 2019. The organizations shared their experiences and plans working independently and with local governments to transform energy systems, economic systems, food systems, and housing and reentry programs to improve their communities' wellbeing while counteracting climate change, the fossil fuel industry and other exploitative systems.

Representing an overwhelming majority, 70% of adult U.S. residents believe environmental protection is more important than economic growth, and 68% support taxing fossil fuel companies while equally reducing other taxes. Additionally, most U.S. citizens believe the United States must take action to improve racial equality. According to a 2018 survey conducted by the Yale Climate Change Communication program, 81% of voters support a Green New Deal to address these pressing energy, climate, racial equity, and economic issues.

Valuing improvement of health with a lens for equity, this Note explores the question, What can we do about climate destabilization? The Background describes the causes and effects of climate change, surveys the history of climate policy, reviews climate policy proposals, and explores some grassroots climate and racial equity-driven movements.

Part I undertakes a root cause analysis of climate destabilization to frame effective problem-solving.

Part II explains how a Health and Racial Equity in All approach can be a useful frame for analyzing how well policies further Climate Justice. Ultimately, this Note aims to highlight and build upon existing scholarship and resources to inspire reflection, research, dialogue, and action to address climate destabilization and equitably improve access to opportunity, health and wellbeing.

Recognizing that belief systems and institutions co-create one another, cultural transformation is a crucial element of the shift to sustainable, regenerative economies. Our value system must become more communitarian rather than individualistic; we must cultivate information literacy and challenge profit-motivated representations; we must promote civic engagement and recognition of the crucial role of government; and we must build and support frontline-led institutions to support sustainable, equitable thriving.

[. . .]

The COVID-19 pandemic of 2019-2020 created many illustrative parallels for understanding the climate crisis. The pandemic highlighted society's vulnerability, interconnectedness, inequity, the mythology of the free market panacea, and the role of governance. Both crises can draw from the graphic-inspired slogan "flatten the curve" because they require coordinated, timely action to suppress the exponential growth of a harm. Federal, state and local-level responses to the coronavirus pandemic demonstrated that our governments have a powerful yet underdeveloped capacity to help residents meet basic needs, well-illustrated by contrast with support offered by European countries.

Commentator Laura Martin points out that, analogies aside, climate change requires very different action from different segments of society, particularly those with power & resources.

The major impact of coronavirus on the trajectory of climate change must not be a temporary reduction in emissions from cars, trucks, and airplanes. It must be a collective recognition that rapid and significant voluntary changes in our behavior are possible. For individual climate action to be sustained, people must find honor and joy in it. And that action must also be supported by government leadership and coordination. We must advocate now, as vocally as we can, for immediate and significant investments in green infrastructure. To avert disaster, we must change how we live.

Clearly, climate destabilization poses an existential threat to Detroiters and U.S. residents, but Detroiters and citizens of the world are facing the challenge with orenda. Individuals and groups are working independently and alongside governments to confront the crisis and improve racial equity and population health, from local gardens to schools, and more. Ultimately, policymakers must be prepared to put money and power in the hands of local initiatives that are working to sustainably and equitably foster opportunity for communities.

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