By: Dania Ahmed
When thinking of environmental justice, I particularly enjoy reading articles such as “”People and Planet First”: On the Moral Authority of Climate Justice and a New Economy” because they are not only insightful and inspirational – but they directly call out our contemporary environmentally ruinous ways of living. Naomi Klein was quite attention grabbing as this was the address she gave at a press conference held at the Vatican following Pope Francis’ encyclical letter on ecology. Klein criticizes our current economic system and urges for significant change. She touches on the role of politicians in the environmental crisis and of corporations. I enjoyed this article mainly for its very down to earth approach. Klein calls upon us to humble ourselves and to recognize that we are not above nature. It is a mutually dependent relationship, we need each other and need to work with each other. Klein also calls out the economic “experts” and claims they have failed us miserably. This reminds me of an article condemning the UN for their inadequate climate change solutions.
The article “Welcome to the US, Greta. With your help we can save the planet and ourselves” by Rebecca Solnit was also well articulated and delved into the historical context of the divide between Americans and Europeans versus the Indigenous. The author begins to detail the current state of the climate change crisis in America and how the current social and economic systems are insufficient. This text was captivating as it introduced me to the Greta, a young Swedish environmentalist, and it specified many current environmental issues that require immediate attention. It also mentioned certain environmental movements that are helping to deescalate the crisis but implores Greta for help. This text was intriguing simply because it highlighted many of America’s faults and attempted solutions to those faults.
I personally was unable to make the connection between intersectionality and global warming but this article of “Youth Activists Are Building An Intersectional Climate Justice Movement” by Maya Carlson introduced the concept of climate justice to me. I found this illuminating because I had never thought of the environment from this perspective. I was awestruck by this reading because it clarified the concept of environmental justice for me immensely. I was able to check my own privilege and realize that I have had advantages that have been ingrained in me to take for granted, that other marginalized communities have been struggling with their whole lives. For example, I take for granted the fact that I live in a clean, non-polluted area but the article touches upon communities that have been forced to live in polluted communities. These communities that have been forced into these living conditions had never even crossed my mind, so I am grateful for the clarity this article provided and feel inspired to take action for these peoples as well.
Lastly, the article “I work in the environmental movement. I don’t care if you recycle.” by Mary Annaise Heglar was very raw and simple. I relished the colloquial language and casual tone as the author attempted to prove how individual environmental change can only go so far, and that governments and corporations must begin to make significant adjustments if we are to save the planet. I find myself agreeing with the author that there must be a balance between individuals and corporations and to focus on assigning blame or guilt is not helping the problem, but instead perpetuates a nihilistic perspective that begins to spread like the plague. However, I disagree with the author’s overall characterization of individual accountability being “victim blaming”. I personally do not regard myself as a “victim” per se of climate change, because I enjoy privileges that allow me to live an efficient and clean lifestyle. A lifestyle where I do not have to encounter the waste I throw away. I do not think we are all victims. I believe this comes back to the concept of intersectionality, and to blame marginalized groups who face climate inequality is victim blaming. The low-income families who inhabit the lands in close proximity to landfills while using the least resources are the victims. We who do not suffer this struggle cannot be the victims. Therefore, a general characterization of individuals as victims is inaccurate in my opinion, and this label can only be applied to those who have been and are being directly affected by the crisis. Overall, I was very pleased and engaged with these readings, they were quick and straight to the point but effectively informed the reader of their main argument.