Journal of African American Studies

, Volume 18, Issue 3, pp 305–314

Climate Justice, Hurricane Katrina, and African American Environmentalism


DOI: 10.1007/s12111-013-9270-5

Cite this article as:
Byrnes, W.M. J Afr Am St (2014) 18: 305. doi:10.1007/s12111-013-9270-5


The images of human suffering from New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina remain seared in our nation's collective memory. More than 8 years on, the city and its African-American population still have not recovered fully. This reality highlights an important truth: the disturbances that accompany climate change will first and foremost affect minority communities, many of whom are economically disadvantaged. This paper: (1) describes how Hurricane Katrina, an example of the type of natural disaster that will become more prevalent with intensifying climate change, has impacted the black community of New Orleans; (2) explores the notion that African Americans, in the midst of racial oppression, have developed a unique and powerful brand of environmental thought that has much to contribute to mainstream environmentalism; and (3) argues that the voice of the black community, which has a vested interest in climate outcomes, is critically needed in today's climate debate.


Climate changeEnvironmental justiceHurricane KatrinaAfrican American environmentalism

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, College of MedicineHoward UniversityWashingtonUSA