The Climate Crisis is a Health Emergency-by Ebony Perkins

It’s Official: The Climate Crisis is a Health Emergency

By Ebony Perkins, Impact Finance Center

Above – A Self-Help financed solar project in Kinston, North Carolina. Self-Help has invested over $175 million in solar development companies that are providing a clean energy alternative to fossil fuels and opportunities for economic advancement in rural communities. These installations have created 2,250 jobs in the clean-energy sector and have provided over 280 megawatts of clean energy to the grid–enough to power 53,000 homes.


Ebony Perkins Impact Finance Center

GreenMoney Journal is turning 30!

The guests have arrived, the music is playing, and the celebration is about to begin.

But wait…don’t pop the champagne just yet. We still have work to do.

It’s natural to want to celebrate our progress in the fight against climate change. Since GreenMoney Journal’s founding in 1992, we’ve had a few wins—we’ve bent the emissions curve, national leaders have committed to cutting emissions even further, electric vehicle sales have skyrocketed, and clean energy costs have declined.

Investors are also strategically using their investments to support communities that are currently experiencing the direct effects of climate change in their everyday lives. Community development financial institutions have received a surge of investments in the last decade. According to the US SIF 2020 trends report, “community investing assets nearly doubled between 2014 and 2016, then increased by just over 50 percent between 2016 and 2018, and most recently grew by 44 percent between 2018 and 2020.”  Money managers have invested $266.3 billion into community investing institutions.

Yet, investments in community investing institutions are still only 1.6% of the $16.6 trillion in ESG incorporated assets. Many communities are in crisis mode as they face mounting health issues and even death because of climate change.

Though we’ve made progress in the fight against climate change, we must remain persistent and continue to protect our most vulnerable populations.

The Climate Crisis is a Health Emergency

Our most vulnerable groups — low-income and minority communities — feel the effects of our declining planet before the general population because they often lack the resources to shield them from the inevitable chain of events that occur resulting from environmental decline and failing infrastructure. They experience the effects of climate change at higher rates, are plagued by water contamination, and are more often located near landfills and hazardous waste sites than other groups. These groups are robbed of the chance to live and raise their families in safe communities where they can enjoy healthy food, drink safe water, and breathe clean air.

The World Health Organization estimates that in 2012 environmental factors contributed to 12.6 million deaths globally, nearly 23% of all deaths. In the United States, physicians are speaking out about the health risks that pregnant women, children, the elderly, and others with chronic health conditions are experiencing because of climate. They are seeing more patients with increased allergies, respiratory complications, heat-related difficulties, or mosquito-borne illnesses, among other issues.

Many individuals are now taking their health into their own hands after realizing the damaging effects of gas. Clean Energy Credit Union member John from Texas turned to the credit union after experiencing a storm that affected him and his family. He said, “I [decided] to go solar after the huge storm in Texas in February of 2021. After losing power for almost 48 hours and having to huddle around the gas fireplace just to survive, we had enough and decided to take control of our own energy production. We purchased a system large enough to produce 100% of our energy needs, with a battery backup that is generator ready. We feel much safer in our own home now that we have this system.”

Many green financial institutions recognize that no one should continue to jeopardize their health because of expensive financing options from traditional lenders. Nicole Buford, Marketing Director at Clean Energy, doubled down on their efforts to build healthier communities: “We recognize that there is a strong connection between health and the environment, and we are committed to leveraging clean energy to reduce pollution for the public’s health.”

In the future, investors will tailor their strategy in the fight against climate change to address the growing health problems vulnerable communities face. Some institutional investors are already investing in affordable housing that provides safe, environmentally-friendly living conditions. Others are increasing diversity in healthcare so patients experiencing environmentally-caused health conditions can work with a doctor or other healthcare professionals that can both identify with their plight and meet their needs.

West Oakland Community Foods Market
Community Foods Market is a full-service grocery store, health resource center and community hub that engages residents to lead healthier and more socially-connected lives. Self-Help’s $1,985,000 loan helped fund construction of the 14,000 square-foot grocery store to support the vibrant community of West Oakland.

How You Can Build Healthier Communities & Fight Climate Change

You don’t have to decide between either fighting climate change or building healthier communities. Below are a few ways you can achieve both:

  • Invest your cash with green financial institutions providing healthy alternative products: Some credit unions specialize in affordable clean energy loans. Consider placing your savings at Self-Help Credit Union in a CD, IRA, or money market account so they can help others lead healthier, environmentally-friendly lives.
  • Give to nonprofits addressing the public health effects of climate change: Many organizations are serving communities experiencing these health issues. Consider donating to organizations like The Medical Society Consortium on Climate & Health or PUSH Buffalo to help them continue to raise awareness and address health inequities.
  • Speak up for populations experiencing the brunt of this health crisis: As you continue to advocate for climate change, verbally acknowledge the people currently suffering from these health issues. Although we can continue to address carbon emissions and rising sea levels, we must not forget the growing number of human lives lost each day because of this current health crisis.


Article by Ebony Perkins, Senior Advisor, Impact Finance Center

Ebony Perkins is a dedicated, solution-oriented social entrepreneur whose heartbeat is community. She has a demonstrated ability of working with investors and philanthropists to help them make smart and strategic decisions. As the Director of Impact Investments for a Fortune 5 company, Ebony advances their social impact and tax credit investment strategy across the country. Before that role, she served as the Vice-President & Director of Investor Relations at Self-Help Credit Union. Ebony managed a national team that helps groups and individuals invest funds in a socially responsible financial institution that supports communities of all kinds, especially those underserved by conventional lenders.

Ebony co-hosts the Renegade Capital Podcast: The Activist’s podcast for finance and investments. She interviews thought leaders who go into the ring every day to fight against the racist, sexist, and exclusive norms established by traditional financial and capital systems. Ebony is also a Senior Advisor with Impact Finance Center and is supporting the creation of a membership organization that provides shared due diligence for a diverse asset manager database. 

Ebony’s commitment to community investing is evident by her service and contributions to Clean Energy Credit Union, Conservation Trust of North Carolina, US SIF, and Women In Philanthropy. She was also recognized on the SRI Conference’s inaugural 30 Under 30 List.

Ebony holds a Master of Public Administration from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a Bachelor of Science in Marketing from Claflin University as a summa cum laude graduate. She also has an Executive Certificate in Financial Planning from Duke University.

Energy & Climate, Featured Articles, Food & Farming, Impact Investing, Sustainable Business

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