NEW ORLEANS — The American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana delivered a video statement to the United Nations Human Rights Council today urging President Biden to protect the health of the mostly Black residents of Louisiana’s River Parishes. The ACLU of Louisiana statement is submitted in conjunction with the presentation of a report by the United Nations Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent to the Human Rights Council. The report provides guidance on how to effectively address environmental injustice and impact of the climate crisis and environmental racism on people of African descent.
Also referred to as “Cancer Alley” due to astronomical rates of cancer, the parishes were once home to more than 350 plantation sites and have since been invaded by the petrochemical industry, leading to the suffocating and poisoning of residents. The United States Environmental Protection Agency has found that St. John the Baptist Parish has cancer rates that are more than 1,500 times the national average.
Alanah Odoms, executive director of the ACLU of Louisiana, delivered the video statement and called on the Biden administration to use executive authority to halt further petrochemical proliferation in the parishes.
“This sacred land should lawfully belong to the descendants of the Black men, women, and children who labored to their deaths as enslaved people,” said Odoms. “Instead, the land has been exploited by dangerous plastic and chemical plants that have destroyed air quality, hastened climate change, and exposed descendants to unconscionable rates of disease and cancer. The Biden administration has a duty to step in.”
Grassroots activists and community members including Sharon Lavigne and Bobby Taylor are currently bearing the brunt of more extreme weather due to climate change. They are once again fighting for their survival without adequate shelter, power, and other human necessities caused by Hurricane Ida.
“We desperately need help over here from the ongoing suffering from the petrochemical industry. The United States Environmental Protection Agency found that St. John the Baptist Parish has a cancer rate that is more than 1,500 times the national average due to our exposure to chloroprene. And yet the head of the state EPA has attacked our organization and accused us of lying and fearmongering,” said Bobby Taylor of the Concerned Citizens of St. John. “President Biden, you have promised to help us. We need you to follow through. The petrochemical industry doesn’t place any value on the lives of people in this so-called Cancer Alley that they created.”
The report by the UN Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent recommends the United States “deliver environmental justice in communities in America, including areas like ‘Death Alley’ and other areas that face environmental degradation, climate crises and disaster, all of which are compounded by infrastructure deficiencies, including a lack of potable water, sanitation, plumbing, and assurances of air quality.”
The United States’ statement to the Council welcomed the creation of the UN Permanent Forum for People of African Descent but totally ignored the Working Group’s report and failed to respond to the recommendation to combat environmental racism especially against people of African descent in the United States.
The video is here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1PZCcPqItcvRyAvCp8WY1ZhaDOIuzpKpN/view