Climate Change Overwhelm And What It Means To Join The Fight
September 15, 2023
When it comes to climate change, two things have become frighteningly clear; that it’s getting worse and the already marginalized and disenfranchised bear the brunt. I don’t have to look very far to be inundated with alarming news that leaves me feeling angry, overwhelmed or powerless.
Moving beyond those feelings is crucial and this is the first in a series unpacking the impact of climate change on our communities. However, I am not an expert and in fact I desperately wanted to leave this topic to those who’ve already dedicated their lives to the fight through science, academia or organizing efforts. It’s 2023 though and unsurprisingly, I (we) quickly lost the luxury of ignorance as the awakening about climate change went from rude to violent, slowly and consistently over time.
The “end-of-days” vibe grows stronger by the hour and to understand climate change activism I need to find who to listen to, where I can show up and what capacity I actually have to take this on. I want, figuring this out to be a shared experience that invites discourse and information so that we co-create an accessible resource.
But before we start, I want to first clear out a deep resentment and unfairness I feel about the climate crisis. As any good therapist will tell you, there is healing in being able to acknowledge and process discomfort. The raw deal that marginalized folks continue to get is an enraging generational discomfort with seemingly no end in sight. I know I’m not alone in feeling this way and maybe if we get through that emotional block together by naming it, we might find it a little “easier” to truly consider what it would mean to join the climate fight with everything we got.
Lamenting The Unfairness
The Earth is literally the only place we know of made especially for us and in its billions of years of life, the last 100 years has caused irreversible damage and poses a massive threat to our continued existence. We’ve been told by scientists that there has to be an urgent slowing of the damage climate change is doing and that there needs to be a habitable world for the generations after us. Fixing any of this feels like a pipe dream and international experts are running out of ways to say that we’ve long passed the point of no return and our habitats will burn, flood or crumble if we continue to do nothing.
But fam, who is “we”?!? Surely you don’t mean us? I mean there’s no way you’re looking at Black, Brown and Indigenous to help solve something we warned about and did not create whilst STILL facing unmitigated oppression? We are tired, wired and our nervous systems fragile from centuries of trauma, colonialism, slavery, police brutality, failed states or the current terrifying resurgence of fascism. But then I read the following quote from this article:
“We are the most disproportionately impacted by climate change. You see climate risks don’t just include the environmental and economical impacts, but they also comprise of health, racial, migration, food and security, housing, mental, socio-cultural. Black people experience unfair inequities in each of these impacts alone. Climate change only exacerbates the existing stressors of these inequities,” – Jasmine Sanders, executive director of Our Climate, a Washington DC-based youth advocacy organization.
That made it all too clear that we are already in the climate crisis fight, we have always been and fighting for ourselves is fighting for everything. Looking at it that way punctuates that this is a modern tragedy with obvious villains. That this recent, all consuming destruction, was preventable, can still be slowed and is still the fault of a handful of billionaires and about 100 corporations.
The kicker is that most of the awareness raised or solutions implemented for the last few decades have continued to be centered around the individual responsibility of the many instead of accountability for the few. That the break-neck speed with which capitalism, white supremacy and other hierarchical systems have violently constructed our current reality has also confused and numbed us, trying desperately at apathy, which only serves to keep us in a deadlock as we watch the world die.
Moving Through Hopelessness
We’ve made efforts to do our part but then we quickly learned that recycling is a billion dollar ineffectual endeavor leaving waste colonialism in its wake or that plastic straw bans were just global virtue signaling.
We’ve also been experiencing activism fatigue, witnessing how little and slow changes happen or how many existing structures for equality are being broken down. So knowing all of that, it really seems daunting to add “climate warrior” to the long list of intersectional fights. And it’s maddening that those few responsible continue to be unaccountable, corrosive and malicious as they count their money and watch the world burn, while we argue on social media about our right to be Black and unharmed?
I hate that we don’t have a choice and I honestly would rather the comfort of blissful ignorance, but I can’t unknow and indifference is a luxury. As scary and hopeless as it all feels OUT THERE, the beauty, sanctity and miraculousness of life is worth protecting, the Black and inclusive future we’re collectively imagining is still worth fighting for with everything we’ve got.
Stay tuned for this series, together we’ll seek clarity as we unpack climate change, platform nuanced Black stories across the diaspora and explore solutions and alternative futures for our collective consideration.
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