Racism and climate change are inextricable

One of the things that’s becoming clear to me these days is how racism is linked not only to the impacts of climate change, but also to our ability to respond to it.

Climate change asks us, in both mitigation and adaptation, to unify across racial and national lines, to invest in economic transformation, and to have effective civic institutions. It will ask us to take in more climate refugees without succumbing to further fascism. It asks us to cooperate internationally for the sake of millions of people in the global south who are the first and hardest hit.

Racism in our society is impeding responding effectively to climate change. It’s been used for centuries to preserve the position of those with power by dividing those without it. It’s been used to block social welfare programs. It’s been used to weaken and dismantle a functional federal government, which seems to no longer be able to do anything but serve the short-term interests of the wealthy. We can see all this play out in our government’s feeble response to the coronavirus: both in it’s disfunction and in it’s willingness to sacrifice the lives of people of color for the continued profit of the wealthy. This is identical to what we’re doing with climate change.

If we’re going to respond to climate change well, we need a society that isn’t divided by racism. We need a multi-racial working class coalition to take democratic control in order to enact a just transition.

Beyond the importance of advancing racial justice, I’m hopeful that the current uprisings are a step in that direction. I’m encouraged by the new alliances and connections being made between groups working for justice, by the rapid shift in public opinion, by people discovering their power through successful protest, and by all the political education and training that is happening. May this be the ground for a brighter future.

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