The Environmental Justice Movement Needs Bernie Sanders to Win

We are standing at the precipice of a movement. A growing contingency of Americans who are waking up to the reality that we are living in, and upholding, a system that endorses environmental degradation and injustices. From the lead poisonings of Flint, Michigan and East Los Angeles, to higher rates of asthma in low income, communities of color - the nation is witnessing systemic environmental injustices far to frequently.

The abandonment of diligent governance by our elected leaders is at the core of this national crisis. Far too often, we have witnessed leaders neglect to take action to improve the environmental conditions for these communities. For too often, the people have sat with hands tied and mouths taped, unable to get legislation and funding allocated to protect communities of color from toxic oil spills, poisonous water, and cancer causing air pollution.

Communities of color are the hardest hit by climate change, air and water pollution from industrial facilities, chemical waste dumps, and lead contamination from old pipes and paint. Black children are five times more likely than white children to have lead poisoning. Low-income Latino immigrants are more likely than anyone else to live in areas with high levels of hazardous air pollution. In fact, the odds of a Latino immigrant neighborhood being located in an area of high toxic pollution are one in three.

The fight for environmental justice is a long one, and it takes a bold leader like Senator Bernie Sanders to ensure justice will be attained. As the presidential race fires up, and as a national division consumes the headlines, Sanders is building a platform of change that will confront environmental injustices, and the looming threat of climate change.

Sanders has the greatest number of endorsements from key environmental leaders, and he is viewed as a reliable champion of climate action and environmental protection.

In the eyes of the movement, Sanders has a long-standing commitment to fighting for the environment, achieving a 95 percent lifetime rating on the national environmental scorecard of the League of Conservation Voters (LCV). This score is better than any other presidential candidate (he received a 100 percent score for 2015). In contrast, Hillary Clinton has a LCV lifetime score of only 82 percent.

Despite the lower rating, the LCV ignored their own metrics and endorsed Clinton for President in early November of 2015, unleashing a wave of criticism from grassroots groups across the country. However, it should be noted that the chair of the LCV board, Carol M. Browner, was President Bill Clinton's Environmental Protection Agency administrator, and has deep personal ties to Hillary.

But what's markedly different about Sanders' stance is the way he frames responsibility for the changing climate. Bernie Sanders is known for calling out the wealthy 1 percent and referencing corporate greed as the reason for a corrupt American government, and his climate change platform rings the same bells.

Instead of simply calling for carbon emissions cuts and vaguely stating that we need to "do more," Sanders blatantly notes that the lack of political momentum to prevent further climate change is perpetrated by the industries whose profits would suffer under more stringent environmental policy. He is the only candidate to explicitly states that the power of these dominant industries must be weakened before any significant legislative change can be made.

In order to achieve environmental justice, the Sanders' campaign platform on racial justice is calling for the equal enforcement of environmental, civil rights and public health laws, as well as the cleanup of Superfund hazardous waste sites in communities of color.

He is also calling for an end to the unequal exposure of people of color to harmful chemicals, pesticides and other toxins in homes, schools, neighborhoods and workplaces. To this end, he believes the Federal government can promote cleaner manufacturing processes, renewable energy systems and safe product designs that end pollution and the use of toxic chemicals, while providing safe jobs and other economic benefits for people of color.

We are standing at the precipice of a movement, and with Bernie Sanders as the president, we will move toward a sustainable economy that endorses clean air, water, and land, for all.