Climate Change is a Civil Rights Issue for This Faith Leader

When Rev. Dr. Gerald Durley first marched for civil rights in America with Dr. King, he probably never imagined he'd be doing something similar for the climate in 2016. Rev. Durley and along with many other Blessed Tomorrow leaders view climate change as a civil rights issue, often a continuation of the work bravely undertaken in the 1950s and 1960s. For Rev. Durley, the issue remains the same, as he came to understand that "climate change was negatively and disproportionately affecting low-income and particularly minority communities, who contributed the least amount to carbon in the atmosphere."

For Rev. Durley, 'low-income minority communities,' not polar bears drew him to climate change. The Reverend shared, "…it went beyond polar bears because I couldn't care less about polar bears melting, I’ve never seen a polar bear…." Most Americas require relatable tangibles to motivate climate action, as with American pollution disproportionately impacting people of color. This is a reality, and the sooner we realize that climate change is a civil rights issue, the faster we will fix it.

The Faith-Based Push On Climate Change – Interview With Rev. Durley

 Pat Rynard | Iowa Starting Line

As the environmental and climate change movement continues to build momentum and expand, a number of new partners join the coalition. One important addition has been the faith community, with leaders from a wide array of denominations adding their voice and unique perspective.

One veteran civil rights activist and faith leader visited Des Moines recently to do his part to push forward the conversation on climate change. Rev. Dr. Gerald Durley was the pastor for 25 years at the historic Providence Missionary Baptist Church in Atlanta. A psychologist as well, Durley was deeply involved in the civil rights struggle in the 1960’s. He brought that perspective to local climate activists in Des Moines, and Starting Line sat down with him for an interview during his trip. The following has been edited slightly for clarity and brevity.

What brings you to Iowa and why do you feel climate change is a civil rights issue?

For the last six or seven ears we’ve been deeply concerned with climate change, global warming and environmental justice. All too often the masses are not too involved. We don’t really know what happened in Paris and Copenhagen. Until we take it to that grass-roots level, where it has a face and meaning.

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