Before the Streetlights Come On

Black America’s Urgent Call for Climate Solutions

Before the Streetlights Come On

Black America’s Urgent Call for Climate Solutions

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Climate change. Two words that are quickly becoming the clarion call to action in the twenty-first century. It is a voter issue, an economy driver, and a defining dynamic for the foreseeable future. Yet, in Black communities, climate change is seen as less urgent when compared to other pressing issues, including police brutality, gun violence, job security, food insecurity, and the blatant racism faced daily around the country.

However, with Black Americans disproportionately impacted by the effects of climate change--making up 13 percent of the US population but breathing 40 percent dirtier air and being twice as likely to be hospitalized or die from climate-related health problems than white counterparts--climate change is a central issue of racial justice and affects every aspect of life for Black communities.

In Before the Streetlights Come On, climate activist Heather McTeer Toney insists that those most affected by climate change are best suited to lead the movement for climate justice. McTeer Toney brings her background in politics, community advocacy, and leadership in environmental justice to this revolutionary exploration of why and how Black Americans are uniquely qualified to lead national and global conversations around systems of racial disparity and solutions to the climate crisis. As our country delves deeper into solutions for systemic racism and past injustices, she argues, the environmental movement must shift direction and leadership toward those most affected and most affecting change: Black communities.


"Heather McTeer Toney gives us a practical, accessible, essential book that directly responds to Mother Earth's call: 'Say my name; you gonna respect me,"' as she dishes out some 'Do Right' to make sure we all know she's pissed about how we have disrespected the gift and how she expects us to do better moving forward."

Mustafa Santiago Ali, EVP, National Wildlife Association

"This book is so important. Heather McTeer Toney brings to life the intersection of climate change and the social justice issues faced by Black Americans daily through her stories and lived experience. ...This is the urgent solution we need in order to effectuate equitable climate policy. Heather's book will help people of all backgrounds see clearly the effects of unjust and unbalanced actions on Black America as well as understand why it is critical to our collective survival."

from the foreword by Dr. Robert D. Bullard and Dr. Beverly Wright, authors of The Wrong Complexion for Protection: How the Government Response to Disaster Endangers African American Communities

"Climate change affects all of us, but it doesn't affect us equally. All too often, those most affected are already overwhelmed by the cascading impacts of inequity and injustice. Drawing from her vivid life experiences and wealth of knowledge, Heather McTeer Toney sounds a clarion call for immediate climate action in and for marginalized communities. Why? Because if we don't fix climate change, we can't fix anything else."

Dr. Katharine Hayhoe, climate scientist and author of Saving Us: A Climate Scientist's Case for Hope and Healing in a Divided World

"With crystal clarity, Heather McTeer Toney documents the shameful history that has left Black communities particularly vulnerable to the ravages of climate change—and explores what we can do about it."

David Axelrod, director of the University of Chicago Institute of Politics, and CNN senior political commentator

"Now is a time for deeper and more diverse public thought about climate and environment. Heather McTeer Toney is taking up the challenge."

Tamara Toles O'Laughlin, national climate strategist and founder of Climate Critical Earth

"McTeer Toney brilliantly describes the real impact and politics of climate change at the community level. If you want to understand the way forward—the way we solve this challenge through the democratic process—you need to read Before the Streetlights Come On."

Fred Krupp, president of the Environmental Defense Fund

"Before the Streetlights Come On breaks climate out of its wonky shell and brings it into the living room, backyard BBQ, and fellowship hall. Using the language of everyday people, Heather McTeer Toney blends common sense, humor, and storytelling. This book will welcome you into the topic or help you see it with fresh eyes."

Dr. Katharine K. Wilkinson, coeditor of All We Can Save: Truth, Courage, and Solutions for the Climate Crisis


"A persuasive case for why Black activists should be at the forefront of the environmental movement."

Publishers Weekly 

Product Info

  • Publisher Broadleaf Books
  • Format Hardcover
  • ISBN 9781506478623
  • eBook ISBN 9781506478630
  • Dimensions 5.75 x 8.75
  • Pages 198
  • Publication Date April 18, 2023