For the past few years, discussion of the climate crisis has been increasing rapidly. The fight to restore the devastated Earth has been transformed into an intersection of politics: the recent Vice-Presidential debate prompted further conversation about how to save the Earth, and those who deny the climate crisis question whether the Earth even needs saving. With the former Vice-President Joe Biden campaign willing to work on environmental policy and the excitement surrounding the Green New Deal, it is easy to look forward towards a healthier future.
Yet, within the growing conversation surrounding climate change, we are deserting those who will be most affected by the crisis. Solutions to climate change tend to prioritize individual feasibility over accessibility, often at the expense of marginalized communities and the fight against the climate crisis more broadly.
When one contemplates possible actions to combat the climate emergency, they might imagine elaborate structures with solar panels collecting energy, people thrifting to avoid purchasing clothing at fast-fashion stores, or perhaps electrical-powered cars. There are certain limitations to these methods, such as the carbon footprint of solar panels, the effects of increasing prices of thrift-store clothing that take away resources from those who rely on it, and the environmental problem of generating electricity for electric cars. It is usually up to the individual person to determine which means work best for themselves rather than for those in marginalized communities.
Solar panels have an average upfront cost of approximately 15,000 dollars for a 5-kW residential system, which covers approximately half of a home’s total energy use depending on the location. Picture someone working relentlessly each day, their eyes falling heavy as they arrive home. They are relieved from the fatigue of work but are greeted with the approaching tragedy of starvation. While their mind fills with the dilemma of feeding their family, their fingers and toes go numb from the cold, the heat bill amounting to a sum of money that would only topple over and drown them in debt. With a bi-weekly paycheck of a little above 900 dollars, 15,000 dollars is relatively impossible to pay. It’s unreasonable to believe that, in our individualistic and capitalistic society, the majority of people would choose Earth’s well-being over their own survival. It isn’t a matter of selfishness but rather a survival issue. Poverty and starvation are rampantly increasing, particularly with the pandemic looming over the globe. Additionally, those living in apartment complexes are never afforded the authority to install solar panels. Additionally, it’s likely that some people in the building would no longer be able to pay the rent with the increases that the installation of the panels would incur.
Nonetheless, with the constant trespassing on the planet to obtain fossil fuels and create a more “convenient” world, the Earth is entering a state of emergency. The threat of irreversible damage approaches us through pipes and plumes of smoke. We are on the verge of destruction only before seen in dystopian movies. We must make a change. Though this is a collective, global journey towards a better future for the Earth, there is not a single way to experience the repercussions of the climate crisis, and accordingly not a sole set of duties to combat it.
Garnering the national, and even global, attention of those who have political authority is also extremely important when fighting this crisis: legislation is a more permanent way to get everyone on board. Yet structural issues such as regulatory capture interfere with the creation and enforcement of policies, as regulatory bodies are filled with representatives from the very companies that they are intended to govern. This undermines the impact of all regulatory legislation.
Ideally, to create an intersectional climate fight, future legislation would follow the considerations that the Green New Deal takes into account. It explicitly mentions racism, sexism, and classism and challenges the federal government to provide everyone with “clean air and water; climate and community resiliency; healthy food; access to nature; and a sustainable environment.”
Activists and politicians such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Greta Thunberg have set the precedent as to what an inclusive climate fight would look like. Ocasio-Cortez consistently advocates for the rights of marginalized communities in America, in the context of repercussions of climate change as well as climate justice, while Thunberg organizes and inspires protests among youth, something relatively accessible for almost all children in public schools in America.
Most importantly, the best thing to do for the Earth is to vote. Politicians who believe in climate change will be more likely to attempt to solve the issues that are discoloring the water and thickening the air. Voting is an individual action that evolves into a collective endeavor. While it is essential to hold the state and national government as well as big corporations accountable, if you have access to money, time, or privilege, it is helpful not to abandon the independent actions that you can take. Otherwise, because of the numerous obstacles that besiege people who are at a societal disadvantage there will not be enough action.
Communities consisting of people of color, low-income residents, or other intersections of people at a societal disadvantage are typically not equipped to resist the climate crisis on an individual level. Through a gavel in a courtroom crushing the hopes and lives of innocent people, though the cages that kids of undocumented immigrants are trapped inside of, through shunning employees trying to bargain with their managers for a few dollars more on their flimsy 12-dollar paycheck, the U.S. confines those who have identities and features that stray from the majority and oppresses them. With all of these boundaries that were built and continue to be constructed, it’s unreasonable to hold everyone to identical standards in the battle against climate change.
The drastic effects that the climate crisis has on our lives and the Earth itself begs the question: will we have a future? How can we see a dream of an improved tomorrow in the stars if the stars are covered by smog? Will the pipes in the Earth that once promised us convenience soon taint every sip of water we drink? Although we don’t realize it immediately, the water pulsing through the veins of the Earth is not all that different to the blood that flows through our bodies. If the resistance against climate change does not become intersectional, it will never be enough to save the world.