Environmental justice leaders Jacqui Patterson will be the 2014 Black History Month featured speaker at the Barbara Jordan-Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs at Texas Southern University in Houston on Thursday February 27, 6:30pm. (114 McCoy Auditorium, Public Affairs Building). Ms. Patterson is the Director of the NAACP Environmental Justice Climate Program at the national headquarters located in Baltimore. Prior to joining the NAACP, she enjoyed a fulfilling career as a researcher, program manager, coordinator, advocate and activist working on women’s rights, violence against women, HIV&AIDS, racial justice, economic justice, and environmental and climate justice.
Ms. Patterson’s policy work includes climate change and civil rights, gender and disasters, and race and community resilience. Her research, advocacy and national education campaigns have aided in closing the climate gap and have spearheaded the dismantling of energy apartheid in the U.S. which disproportionately impact African Americans. According to the 2008 Environmental Justice Climate Change Initiative report, A Climate of Change: African Americans, Global Warming, and a Just Climate Policy, African Americans are thirteen percent of the U.S. population and on average emit nearly twenty percent less greenhouse gases than non-Hispanic whites per capita. On average, African Americans use less energy than most Americans. Yet, African Americans bear a disproportionate burden in hosting “dirty” energy plants. Clearly, a “distinctive African American voice is critical for climate justice.”
Ms. Patterson is the co-author of the 2012 NAACP report, Coal Blooded: Putting Profits Before People, a report analyzing sulfur dioxide (SO2) and Nitrogen Oxide (NOx) emissions in conjunction with demographic factors–race, income, and population density–to rank the environmental justice performance of the nation’s 378 coal fired power plants. Two million people live within three miles of one of the top twelve “dirtiest” (dirty dozen) coal fired power plants; 76 percent of these residents are people of color compared to only 37 percent people of color in the U.S. population in 2012. The average per capita income for communities hosting the dirty power plants was only $14,626, compared with the national average of $21,587.
Her findings are consistent with those uncovered in a 2002 Black Leadership Forum report, Air of Injustice: African Americans and Power Plant Pollution, which found 68% of African Americans live within 30 miles of a power plant—the distance within which the maximum effects of the smokestack plumes are expected to occur, compared with 56% of whites and 39% of Latinos.
She is also lead author on the December 2013 NAACP report, Just Energy Policies: Reducing Pollution and Creating Jobs, that evaluates energy policy in all 50 states from a civil rights perspective. The 556-page report lays out a vision, supported by practical data, for a transition from harmful energy production processes in our communities to an energy efficient and clean energy policy landscape that reduces pollution and creates new jobs. The report found African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans and low-income Americans tend to most often face potential health threats caused by the environment and facilities in their neighborhoods, tend to spend the largest share of their incomes on energy, but are underrepresented in the energy industry workforce. In 2009, African Americans spent $41 billion on energy, but received only held 1.1% of energy jobs and only gained .01% of the revenue from the energy sector profits.
Ms. Patterson holds a M.A. degree in social work from the University of Maryland and a MPH degree from Johns Hopkins University. She currently serves on the Executive Committee for the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Alumni Network, the Coordination Team of the Gender Justice Working Group US Social Forum, Board of Directors for the Institute of the Black Worlds and US Climate Action Network.