Brentin Mock

Brentin Mock is a staff writer at where he writes about civil rights and all matters of justice

Recent Articles


New York governor David Paterson may flake on a regional cap-and-trade deal by granting the state's energy industry an increase in free emissions permits, which allow companies to release a capped amount of carbon into the air. The energy industry has already been granted free allowances for 1.5 million tons of emissions per year. Now, Paterson may up the number to 6.5 million tons. New York is part of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative , the ten-state consortium spanning New England and the Mid-Atlantic that operates under a cap-and-trade policy to curb carbon dioxide releases and mitigate global warming. By reconsidering the rules set forth by the RGGI system, Paterson is setting a dangerous precedent for other governors in the included states to do the same. Giving industry this kind of leverage also screws New York in two ways. First, it de-fangs the cap-and-trade model and waters down its efficacy, thus allowing Republicans in the state and beyond to justify claims that the...

The New Normal

Governments at all levels responded slowly to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The people of the Gulf Coast took up the slack but haven't absolved government of its responsibilities.

(AP Photo)
Walking along the Algiers levees facing downtown New Orleans, Malik Rahim stops at a huge dent in the pavement that he thinks came from a crashed barge during Hurricane Katrina. "See there," points out Rahim, a Black Panther with grayed locks who has been a community activist since the 1970s. "That's not going to hold water back if we have another major storm." Rahim, a founder of Common Ground Relief, a collective of volunteers formed after Katrina to revitalize New Orleans, sees the levee damage as an opportunity to put local people to work on repairs. People from the neighborhood come regularly to Rahim's house, which is less than a mile away. All of them are African Americans looking for work, which Rahim seems to have readily available in the form of gutting and rehabbing abandoned houses. Common Ground has relied purely on donations and foundation grants and has accepted no money from the government. "Look at these guys," Rahim says. "You don't see one of them drinking or doing...


A major discussion of climate change and gender raised some interesting ideas around labor organizing here at the “Advancing Climate Justice” conference. The talk was led by Aimee Thorne-Thompsen of Pro-Choice Education Project, Shana Griffin of New Orleans’ Women’s Health and Justice Initiative, Rachel Harris of Women’s Environment & Development Organization and Dana Paredes of Asian Communities for Reproductive Justice. At the ACRJ, Paredes works to connect the dots between climate change and the unsafe working conditions of women in the electronics and the nail salon industry. The manufacture of computer parts and equipment releases high levels of perfluorocompounds (PFCs), which are among the most potent greenhouse gases. A huge number of workers in this industry are women, as a result there have been high rates of miscarriage, fertility problems, birth defects and cancer. Ditto for the women, mostly Vietnamese, who dominate the nail salon...


The “Advancing Climate Justice” conference at Fordham University in New York City (organized by the NY-based environmental justice group WE ACT ) today and tomorrow, is billed as an attempt to raise awareness about the need to protect vulnerable communities from the consequences of climate change. Within that rubric, they’ve wasted little time exposing their advocacy for a carbon tax bill. Dr. James Hansen , leading siren on the dangers of global warming, didn’t make the opening session due to sickness, and he undoubtedly was invited in some part due to his aggressive advocacy for a carbon tax regime as opposed to a cap-and-trade regime. Cecil Corbin-Mark , of WE ACT, filled right in, asserting that the carbon tax is the preferable option for poor and minority communities. He argues that under cap-and-trade, the biggest polluters will have the most leeway to continue polluting in neighborhoods that have already suffered the worst health impacts from existing...

Will Environmental Justice Finally Get Its Due?

Obama's environment, energy, and urban affairs appointees are poised to enact policies that environmental justice activists have long been pushing for.

If President-Elect Barack Obama's recent cabinet choices are any indication, the decades-old environmental justice movement may finally see many of its top policy goals fulfilled. The Obama administration is poised to finally deliver on White House promises made in the early 1990s to protect minorities from toxic waste, and with the addition of an Office of Urban Policy, it may go even further toward correcting historical racial disparities when it comes to environmental hazards. On Feb. 11, 1994, President Bill Clinton signed Executive Order #12898 , the Federal Actions to Address Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low-Income Populations. It was a huge milestone for the environmental justice movement, which began in the early 1980s when multi-racial coalitions of activists fought against pollution and dumpings near African-American communities in Warren County, North Carolina, and Dickson County, Tennessee. In 1987, the United Church of Christ Commission for Racial...