We broadcast live from South Carolina State University in Orangeburg, where tonight the first-ever Presidential Forum on Environmental Justice will be held. Six presidential candidates — Senators Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker, Tom Steyer, Marianne Williamson, John Delaney and Joe Sestak — are participating. The forum is hosted by the National Black Caucus of State Legislators and leaders from frontline communities. South Carolina is a crucial state for the 2020 presidential race and one of the first that will have a Democratic primary, following New Hampshire and caucuses in Iowa and Nevada. The region has been repeatedly pummeled by climate-fueled hurricanes, including Hurricane Florence, which swept through the South in 2018, causing epic floods. Black residents and communities of color have faced disproportionate air and water pollution and exposure to environmental hazards, but South Carolina is also home to some of the most successful responses to environmental racism. Ahead of Friday’s presidential forum, we speak with Mustafa Ali, the forum’s co-moderator and the former head of the environmental justice program at the Environmental Protection Agency. “It’s important that we have these conversations about climate change, but those are the symptoms of a disease,” Ali says. “The disease has been the racism, the structural inequality, that continues to happen inside of communities of color.”
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The more that reason serves as bedrock,/ The more we’re vexed by lethal gridlock.