OPINION: It’s time to get to work on climate

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This week, the 234 scientists at the United Nations released their report on the state of climate change, for the first time since 2013. I don’t need to tell you why science is important, or why the IPCC is the unequivocal authority on climate. In fact, I’m not even going to tell you what is in it – because either you’re reading every news article online like me, or because it’s technical and complicated and as busy working people and parents, you don’t have time to translate this @#*%. But it’s bad, it’s really bad.

In 2020, when the pandemic started, the Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition created a mutual aid group called SW Cares, doling out food and money for people who suddenly lost their jobs last April during shut-down. For the last eight weeks, that same crew has been cleaning sh*t out of people’s basements because our water system failed under what has been measured by some as a 1000-year rainfall. Many people have been experiencing prolonged power outages in southeast Michigan since then. When it comes to water, electricity, and housing — our communities are paying up the wazoo for a broke-ass system. 

Our infrastructure has been so disinvested, it is failing abysmally under the pressure of the climate crisis. If you are not making a lot of money these shocks are devastating — losing a furnace is devastating, in a polar vortex or heat dome, deadly. If you are Black or Latinx, statistically you are more likely to be hit hardest by these shocks.

At the same time, MEJC organizers have been fighting tooth and nail against fossil-fuel corporations who are shoving another generation of fossil fuels down our throats, buying politicians, and stacking the deck against humanity. How? We are telling Stabenow, Peters, the Michigan delegation in Congress that we need #ClimateJustice, Justice40, THRIVE Agenda, to abolish utility debt and pass the Green New Deal. Not to capture carbon emissions and push it into the ground; not create a market that may not reduce carbon emissions at all but make billionaires richer; not purchase forest offsets, carbon credits that are now on fire.

The answer we get: it’s not politically feasible to save humanity because of bi-partisanship negotiation, because Sens. Manchin and Sinema won’t budge. And instead of billions for renewable energy in the infrastructure package, we got billions of dollars for #falsesolutions that line pockets of fossil fuel investors. But there’s still time to invest and decarbonize. Congress must take a BOLD approach to reconciliation, and bring us the money to radically reduce emissions — now.

Now there is the piece about our elections. In Detroit, DTE Energy, among others, spent tens of thousands of dollars to defeat Proposal P, which included provisions that would have created: Emergency response protocols during natural disasters, an Office of Environmental Justice, and an Environmental Justice Health Fund to mitigate the effects of harmful pollution on our health.

We didn’t lose just that, we lost the opportunity to provide water rights, internet, and affordable housing for people because corporations are playing politics with our lives and our future. Corporations are not benign actors, they are out for profit and fracked gas, with carbon capture as the next big thing.  This is the root of the problem. 

Corporations, and those who enable their participation in our democracy, are stealing our future while the climate crisis is unfolding faster, more furious, and with greater magnitude than anyone imagined. 

Our 2022 elections are a pivotal moment for our common future. Find a candidate, run, donate. Next summer plan on knocking doors, making phone calls, and PARTICIPATING actively in the elections to elect climate leaders that REJECT money from fossil fuel corporations. If you can, give generously to #EnvironmentalJustice organizations, not climate organizations that give a pass to #falsesolutions.

Last, people of color, Black, Indigenous people, immigrants, disabled, people of the global majority will and are suffering the most. I am telling you this unequivocally. We do not need more existential machinations of collapse. We are bombarded with state violence, here or in our home countries, through police/military violence, water shutoffs, evictions, and through the burden of researching our own histories (now banned in schools across the nation). We don’t need to imagine collapse to feel convinced or motivated. 

People of the global majority need allyship, complicity to transform this system. We need regular people, and elected officials, to stand with us against the fossil fuel industry. Elect leaders that stand with us, make your employer divest in fossil fuels, support houses of worship that take a stand on climate and justice, organize your neighborhood or school to make changes in local policy. Bring other people with you to take them down. 

The IPCC Report should make you feel angry, it should make you feel sadness, despair, it will make you feel like everything is at stake, desperate for our future, for our children. Take those emotions, and put them to work. Expand your capacity for compassion for people who don’t look like you, let them embolden your commitment to organize your friends and family unapologetically, challenge your elected officials to a higher standard, and take on the goliath, with us, one pebble at a time.


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