Before the streetlights come on Black America's urgent call for climate solutions

Heather McTeer Toney

Book - 2023

"Climate change. Two words that are quickly becoming the clarion call to action in the twenty-first century. It is a voter issue, an economy driver, and a defining dynamic for the foreseeable future. Yet, in Black communities, climate change is seen as less urgent when compared to other pressing issues, including police brutality, gun violence, job security, food insecurity, and the blatant racism faced daily around the country. However, with Black Americans disproportionately impacted by the effects of climate change--making up 13 percent of the US population but breathing 40 percent dirtier air and being twice as likely to be hospitalized or die from climate-related health problems than white counterparts--climate change is a centra...l issue of racial justice and affects every aspect of life for Black communities. In Before the Streetlights Come On, climate activist Heather McTeer Toney insists that those most affected by climate change are best suited to lead the movement for climate justice. McTeer Toney brings her background in politics, community advocacy, and leadership in environmental justice to this revolutionary exploration of why and how Black Americans are uniquely qualified to lead national and global conversations around systems of racial disparity and solutions to the climate crisis. As our country delves deeper into solutions for systemic racism and past injustices, she argues, the environmental movement must shift direction and leadership toward those most affected and most affecting change: Black communities."--

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  • Foreword
  • Chapter 1. Hurry Up and Get Home before the Streetlights Come On!
  • History behind the "Why" We Must Address Climate Change
  • Survival of the Worst Environmental Conditions Imaginable
  • Chapter 2. The Basics of Climate Change, in Plain Language
  • Climate Change and Black People
  • Make It Make Sense-Climate Change Basics
  • Before the Streetlights Come On
  • Chapter 3. The Earth Will Pass Out If She Doesn't Take Off Her Waist Trainer-Understanding Heat-Trapping Gases and Global Warming
  • Make It Make Sense-Global Warming
  • Before the Streetlights Come On
  • Chapter 4. Living Over the Soil and Under the Cloud of Contamination-Natural Gas, Petrochemical Pollution and Climate Change
  • America's Loading Dock for Gas
  • Make It Make Sense-Contamination and Pollution Terminology
  • Before the Streetlights Come On
  • Chapter 5. Redlining Black Folks in a Green World-Federal Discriminatory Housing Policy and Environmental Injustice
  • History of Redlining Black People
  • First Meeting in North Birmingham, Alabama
  • Exchanging the Rose-Colored Glasses for Aloe-Green Gloves
  • Wiretapped? Is It THAT serious?
  • Make It Make Sense-Redlining and Environmental Justice
  • Before the Streetlights Come On
  • Chapter 6. Grandma's House Is Not for Sale for the Sake of the Planet-Climate Solutions Disguised as Green Gentrification and Blue Lining
  • From Redlines to Blue Lines
  • Community Land Trust (CLT)
  • Make It Make Sense-Green Gentrification and Blue Lining
  • Before the Streetlights Come On
  • Chapter 7. The Cultural Appropriation of Collard Greens-Food Insecurity and the Climate Crisis
  • Climate Impacts to Food Production
  • The Environmental Poverty Tax of Food Deserts
  • Speaking the Language of Food Disparity and Climate
  • Transforming Climate Messaging into Meals
  • Seaweed Might Save the Hamburgers
  • Make It Make Sense-Climate and Food Security
  • Before the Streetlights Come On
  • Chapter 8. Too Hot to Learn, Too Cold To Care-The Educational Impacts of Climate Change
  • School Zoning as an Environmental Barrier to Education
  • Extreme Heat and Education
  • Make It Make Sense-Education and Climate Terminology
  • Before the Streetlights Come On
  • Chapter 9. Climate Crisis is an Accomplice to the Murder of George Floyd-Links between Climate Change, Extreme Weather and Violence
  • The Block is Hot
  • The Excused Intensity of Heat-Related Violence
  • Officer Clemmons and Mister Rogers
  • Make It Make Sense-Climate and Violence Terminology
  • Before the Streetlights Come On
  • Chapter 10. Voting for Our Climate Lives-Climate Voting Trends and Voter Suppression
  • The Scariest Horror Film EVER Debuted on January 6, 2021
  • Flashing Signs of Danger Ahead
  • Stop Tripping over Your Own Feet and Run!
  • Lessons from Lovecraft Country
  • Make It Make Sense-Climate and Voting Terminology
  • Before the Streetlights Come On
  • Chapter 11. The Answered Prayers of Our Ancestors-Faith and Climate Action
  • The Earth Is the Lord's and the Fulness Thereof
  • Bosom Notes
  • Make It Make Sense-Climate and Faith Terminology
  • Before the Streetlights Come On
  • Chapter 12. A Soul-Powered Future-The Future of Climate Opportunities through Clean Energy, Climate Change and the Next Generation of Solutions
  • Make It Make Sense-Energy Terminology
  • Before the Streetlights Come On
  • Acknowledgments
  • Streetlight Action Plan (S.L.A.P.)
  • Notes
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Toney, the vice president for community engagement at the Environmental Defense Fund, argues in this inspired call to action that climate issues are inextricably tied to the pursuit of social justice. According to Toney, Black communities are more likely to be "impacted by hurricanes, tornadoes and floods"; to be located near petrochemical complexes and abandoned toxic sites; and to lack grocery stores that sell fresh fruits and vegetables. Impoverished Black children are also more likely to suffer from lead poisoning than their white and Latino counterparts, and young Black men in redlined neighborhoods are especially vulnerable to the upticks in violence that occur during warmer months. It's not all doom and gloom, however. Noting that "Black Americans and Latinos are more concerned about climate impacts than any other demographic," Toney calls on readers to normalize climate change conversations, identify nearby pollution sources, and "vote for community-led, community-driven policing initiatives," among other concrete actions. Throughout, Toney lightens the mood with amusing anecdotes about watching R-rated horror movies as teenager ("for some crazy reason, white people ran towards the conflict"), finding overpriced collard greens in a "health food-based grocery store," and more. The result is a persuasive case for why Black activists should be at the forefront of the environmental movement. (Apr.)

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