When we think of climate change, we often think of how we are harming nature – turtles being killed by chaff or forests drying up; there is no doubt that the nature we have abused deserves our empathy, but the effects of our abuse on real humans are not talked about enough when it comes to the subject of climate change.
Climate justice addresses issues surrounding how certain communities – especially communities of color – are disproportionately affected by climate change.
Redlining is a historical concept, widely implemented in the 1930s, that explains how certain housing – or “nicer housing” – was denied on the basis of race. Today, it is an important factor in the causes of these climatic disparities.
Seattle is no exception to this racism, and we can see its effects today.
In March, a study by researchers from the University of California, Berkeley and the UW found that ‘new deal’ era redlining was directly linked to which parts of the United States are suffering the most. air pollution – the health effects of air pollution include an increased risk of respiratory infections, lung cancer, heart disease and stroke.
In the same way that people who “don’t like to talk about politics” must recognize privilege in order to be “indifferent”, people who do not actively fear the effects of the climate crisis must be aware of the privileges that have put them them in this position, too.
While it may be a hard pill to swallow, the ability to remain selfish and nonchalant in the face of the climate crisis is a direct result of privilege.
Being selfish is in our human nature, and we all have the right to decide how we would like to live our lives, but it is unnatural to say that people should not have the right to choose the issues that interest them; when it comes to the climate crisis, we simply have no choice.
Climate change is often referred to as a tragedy of the commons. If everyone decides they have a right to be selfish, we will all collectively suffer the consequences.
Many argue that the responsibility for mitigating the climate crisis should lie with scientists, politicians and big business responsible for many climate disasters, rather than individuals.
Although big companies have to take responsibility, when you think about this non-individualistic mindset for more than a few minutes, it doesn’t make sense.
We are the ones who control politicians and big business. We decide their actions with our votes. It is we who pump our cars with their gasoline. We’re the ones eating their burgers. We buy their clothes. We are the ones who give them their power, and without us, they would be nothing.
Our consumption habits control their profit. Without us, they would be broke.
Recognizing that we all have individual responsibility for the climate crisis is the most important step in tackling this problem.
If it’s something you feel you just can’t be bothered with, then that’s your right. However, given the impact of redlining and racism on climate disparities, at the very least, acknowledge and sit with the fact that you are privileged to be so carefree.
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