Lisa Desjardins: Finally tonight, Heather McTeer Toney spent three years leading the Environmental Protection Agency for the Southeastern US Now her advocacy reaches both nation and worldwide. Tonight, Tony shares her A Brief But spectacular take on centering Black leadership in climate change solutions.
Heather McTeer Toney, Environmentalist, Attorney, & Civil Servants: Growing up, I was not aware of environmental problems in the Mississippi Delta in Mississippi in the south, we didn’t think about climate and environment, the way that it’s focused now. And it’s actually quite disturbing, because it means that there’s a whole foundational part of how we live and exist, that wasn’t integrated into our education, even though it touched our lives every single day.
As a kid growing up, I took it a lot more than I thought I did, whether it was a meeting for an election that was coming up or it was a protest meeting, I was there. And I was there with other children listening into the plans that were being made. And at the same time, you know, grappling with the fact that something must be so important that after a full day’s work, you still go into the room to talk about how we could as one community ensure that our children me, would have a great future.
My job every day is to help show people where they are in climate solutions and climate solutions that empower them to take control of their communities and spread their solutions across a wide spectrum of issues, how we connect solving climate crisis in a community that may be impoverished, along with how we’re able to resolve education disparities in that community and, health disparities in that community, and really the intersection of climate.
The stereotype around black people not being involved in climate action and environmentalism and climate change comes from the idea that black folks have got so many other issues to deal with. We don’t have time to worry about the planet, it does not mean that even the social justice issues that we have experienced have not been influenced by environmental climate, expanding that picture is my goal every single day to say, yes, you too , are part of the environmental movement. You might not know how, you might not nowhere, but trust me, you are a part of this movement. And it’s time for you to see and recognize your space and step into it.
I’m not willing to gamble on my children’s lives. So I’m going to stay in this fight. I’m going to stay positive about it. And just like my mother was and her mother, my grandmother, I’m going to be damn resilient about coming up with a solution. My name is Heather McTeer Toney and this is my Brief But spectacular take on centering Black leadership in climate change solutions.
Lisa Desjardins: You can watch more Brief But spectacular videos online at Pbs.org/newshour/brief.
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