Climate change is an issue that is interwoven into our societal systems. It is not just rising sea levels and a loss of bees and biodiversity. It’s increased flooding that forces shop owners on the coast of Florida to shut down their stores, their livelihoods. It’s increased heat waves that disproportionately affect Black and brown communities because of their lack of greenspace and/or tree cover, making their neighborhoods up to 20 degrees hotter than surrounding affluent neighborhoods. It’s the fact that throughout a global pandemic, Black and brown communities are overrepresented in what are deemed as “essential jobs” including bus drivers, train operators, and custodians, making them more susceptible to getting sick. Not to mention the effect of racism on access to primary care providers and medical treatments.
Our society is in a phase of change. We are changing the ways in which we communicate, work, and support each other. People are risking their lives to protest during a global pandemic because there are no options left. My community’s lives are at risk.
I am an ecologist, policy analyst, and a Black woman, in no particular order. I have spent my life thus far fighting for justice–mainly justice for our climate and everything that resides within it. That includes us.
I work full-time as an environmental specialist for an environmental policy consulting firm and I spend my spare time working as the outreach and communications director for Our Climate Voices. Previously focused on the science of climate change, I have shifted to highlighting the voices most impacted by the climate crisis and spreading awareness of how interconnected all of these issues are today. For example, climate justice relates to Black liberation because Black communities are disproportionately affected by polluted air from fossil fuel power plants, heat waves, wildfires, and storms. Likewise, climate justice is connected to Indigenous sovereignty because pipeline construction on Indigenous land pollutes the water that Indigenous communities rely on. This is unjust.
What’s more, the environment is not a commodity for us to exploit, but a resource for us to cherish, nurture, and learn from. We are all in the same fight, because as Big Industry takes advantage of our environment, climate change is bringing these social issues to the forefront of the crisis. You cannot have environmental justice without social justice. In this time of rapid climate shifting, we must acknowledge that the social injustices are exacerbated by climate change. This pandemic has only highlighted this further. We need change and we need change now.
In this time of rapid climate shifting, we must acknowledge that the social injustices are exacerbated by climate change. This pandemic has only highlighted this further.
This pandemic has taught me two things: 1) that climate change doesn’t pause because of civil unrest and 2) that our economic and social systems are fragile and interconnected. We must acknowledge this interconnectivity if we wish to make progress. You cannot have climate justice without social justice or Black liberation or Indigenous sovereignty. We must have it all. These systems of injustices and inequity must fall down in order for us to address climate change adequately and to its full extent.
Since the pandemic started, I’ve been doing more writing. Our words are the most powerful tool that we have during a period of self-isolation. I’ve been adding my statements to lawsuits against the Environmental Protection Agency and other federal agencies violating our rights as citizens. I’ve been emailing my representatives and senators. I have also been emailing and calling police chiefs and exposing them for their injustices. We do not have to be silent just because we are confined to our homes. Anyone can make a difference if they keep up with current legislation and know their rights. That’s what I work toward. I work to make science and policy digestible so that people can know what they deserve from our leaders.
We do not have to be silent just because we are confined to our homes.
Knowledge, advocacy, and voting are still the most effective ways to elicit change. We can use our knowledge and our words to teach people. Telling stories and providing personal examples along with the facts about climate change and social justice are an influential way to do that. The freedom to vote is America’s most important political right outside of the Bill of Rights, and it is also the most hard-won right. It has taken so many decades for me, as a Black woman, to have the right to vote. If we don’t exercise our liberties, then what? We are guilty of complicity. If we are silent about the ways in which marginalized groups are treated by the highest branches of government, we are cowardly. We must not hesitate to “stir the pot” when it comes to inequitable policies. This is not a fight of republicans versus democrats but democracy versus fascism, a fight for civil liberties. This is a fight for equity and human rights. This pandemic has made that very clear.
I, for one, am going to keep fighting, even if it’s not in large, in-person protests. We see what is happening as a result of the Black Lives Matter protests: new policies are being passed every single day to protect Black lives. I will continue fighting for the recognition that climate change has victims and that they deserve their day in court. I will work to hold Big Industry accountable for their greenhouse gas emissions and aid in imposing strict regulations. We must acknowledge the true social, economic, environmental, and human cost of the climate crisis to achieve a climate just world. Now more than ever, we must ask ourselves, what are we doing to make this world a better place for our children to live in?
This article is published in partnership with Science Rising, a network of partners and advocates coming together for one purpose: to fight for science, justice, and equity in our democracy leading up to the 2020 election. Take the Science Rising Challenge and join the movement at www.ScienceRising.org.