Secondary Symptoms #5: I Can’t Breathe

The brutal public lynching of George Floyd has sparked a rebellion against police violence and systematic racism. The mostly peaceful protests are courageously rising up, while the police respond with unrelenting force. This all-out war against the American people tells us much about the government’s priorities; while nurses struggle to get basic protective equipment to fight the Covid-19 pandemic, over-funded police forces patrol American streets in expensive military gear. 

“I can’t breathe” is really the perfect chant for this moment. African Americans can’t breathe because the police put knees on their neck, but African Americans also can’t breathe because they die disproportionately from Covid-19. That’s the direct result of environmental racism; that’s toxic dumping and pollution, food deserts, and disinvestment in African American communities.  This week, we connect police brutality, environmental racism, and Covid-19. And we ask: what does this mean for the environmental movement? 

First, we call Robert Bullard, the father of environmental justice, and have him connect the dots for us. Then, Emily Atkin, climate journalist and writer/podcaster at Heated, calls out the mainstream environmental movement for its history of anti-black racism. Finally, Bill McKibben, perhaps the most influential environmentalist on the planet, tells us what Covid-19 means for the future of the planet. 


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This episode was produced by Jay Cockburn and Gordon Katic.

Our theme song and original music is by our composer, Mike BarberDakota Koop is our graphic designer. Our production manager is David Tobiasz, and executive producers are Gordon Katic and Sam Fenn.

This episode was funded in part by the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada. This is part of wider project challenging ideas in liberal environmental thought. The project was advised by Jessica Dempsey at the University of British Columbia, and Rosemary Collard from Simon Fraser University.

Cited is produced out of the Centre of Ethics at the University of Toronto, which is on the traditional land of Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishnabeg, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee and the Wendat Peoples. Cited is also produced out of the Michael Smith Laboratories at the University of British Columbia — that’s on the unceded territories of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh Nations.

econdary Symptoms #5: I Can’t Breath 

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