Black history is happening now, and this month we have highlighted Black scientists, business leaders, and community members who have contributed to knowledge, technology, and advocacy in the solar and green energy fields.

People: Arthur Bertram Cuthbert Walker Jr. (Art Walker, to his friends) was an X-Ray Astrophysicist, former 1st Lieutenant of the Air Force, chair of the commission that investigated the Challenger disaster, recipient of NASA’s Distinguished Public Service Medal, and is considered the “godfather of Black physicists”. Walker developed the technology to take photos of the sun’s corona.

Walker was born in Cleveland, OH, but moved to New York City at a young age. There, he attended the Bronx High School of Science. He was discouraged from pursuing science, but his mother stepped in and urged him to apply to the Case Institute of Technology (now known as a part of Case Western Reserve University). Walker earned his bachelor’s in physics, then went on to receive a doctorate degree from University of Illinois.

After his doctorate program, Walker joined the Air Force as a researcher. When his service concluded, he worked for the Aerospace Corporation, then went on to teach in the Applied Physics department at Stanford University. While he was mentoring his graduate students (many of whom were from groups underrepresented in physics, including Sally Ride – the first female astronaut to orbit the Earth), Walker began work on solar-observing technology – which gave us the first high-resolution X-Ray images of the sun. Learn more about Arthur B.C. Walker here.

Purpose: Clean renewable energy is a step toward a more equitable world. Currently, the costs of fossil fuels are largely placed on minority communities (who also see fewer benefits). This cost goes beyond economics. Waste, pollution, and environmental degradation is pushed into these communities. Race is a stronger indicator than class when it comes to how people are affected by environmental issues. Here is a brief introduction to Environmental Justice.

Community: Columbus is taking a holistic look at how our history has shaped environmental issues, and what we can do moving forward. The Columbus Climate Action Plan aims to decrease greenhouse gas emissions by 45% by 2030, and hopes to be carbon neutral by 2050. The plan is structured around environmental impacts and historical inequities that have caused Black communities to bear more of the costs of environmental degradation. Learn about the status of this initiative here.