This Moment Demands We Stay #ClimateWoke
This month, people from around the world are gathering for the Global Climate Action Summit (GCAS) in San Francisco, co-hosted by Gov. Jerry Brown, to debate the best ways to tackle climate change.
If history is a guide, these conversations will fall short in addressing one of the most important aspects of climate change: that it impacts most heavily the well-being and futures of people of color and low-income communities.
And in fact, if history is our guide, many of the “solutions” launched at GCAS will perpetuate and even deepen the inequities that burden communities of color in California and around the world.
We’re here to say: not anymore, not this time. Climate change is a racial justice issue.
The connections between climate change and so many other social justice fights are painfully clear in this moment. We now have incarcerated people, including incarcerated youth, fighting out-of-control wildfires; we have immigrants who harvest our agricultural bounty dying of heat illness as temperatures rise; and we have a vicious housing crisis that forces low-income families to live in communities that corporations have treated as dumping grounds for toxic waste and pollution.
People of color are organizing to share their stories and reimagine the narrative around climate change, and artists and cultural workers are increasingly on the vanguard in these discussions. The abuse and exploitation of people, animals and the planet are connected. We believe that real change — from an extractive and exploitative economy to one that is just and resilient — can only happen when our communities awaken to the fact that authentic climate solutions must prioritize social, racial and environmental justice.
What does it mean to stay #ClimateWoke?
It means the needs of communities of color and immigrants — who corporations have long saddled with the most extreme pollution — need to be addressed in any policy fixes.
It means righting wrongs by closing disgusting polluting facilities in communities that suffer health impacts from refineries, fracking, trucking, factory farming, and plants.
It means shutting down oil pipelines, and shutting down prisons.
It means demanding that communities on the frontlines of the climate chaos can harness the benefits of the clean energy transition with living-wage jobs with benefits, not low-wage, temporary gigs.
It means reducing our consumption and changing our behaviors to reduce demand for destructive corporate practices.
For too long, the so-called “climate experts” who shape policies that impact our communities and the air we breathe have been white-dominated. We haven’t been at the table, even though we are suffering the worst impacts. As a result, even while California has curbed climate emissions overall, the pollution in many of our communities has actually increased. The majority of polluting facilities included in California’s cap-and-trade program, long regarded as the state’s signature climate policy, have actually boosted carbon emissions under the program. Research reveals California neighborhoods predominantly comprised of immigrants, low-income families, and people of color are more likely to face increased climate emissions under cap and trade. Since Gov. Brown took over in 2011, the Brown administration also green-lighted over 20,000 oil and gas well permits, with the vast majority in communities of color and/or low-income neighborhoods.
We don’t want your dirty oil.
We see the ugly truth: California is one of the largest sources of dirty oil in the nation. Our state has prioritized making things easy for polluters instead of ensuring clean air in communities that have long suffered the worst impacts from fossil fuels.
Climate change is not just a fight for the environment, it’s a fight for our lives. To be #ClimateWoke is to understand that when those who are most affected are in leadership and sharing their stories, we can win. We call on California to lead the way. California has the power to create narratives that shape the world. We are home to an entertainment capital and a tech capital, and we carry with us the legacy of movements with global impacts — from Black Power, to Free Speech, to Queer pride, to #BlackLivesMatter. We are the state that helps dreams take flight. California can be the place that creates the culture that can move people out of denial and inaction. When we change the culture, we can change policy.
California was once a state where anti-immigrant laws took root, a state that once passed some of the worst laws that led to mass incarceration. But years of protest and organizing changed that, transforming our state into a place where we tackle inequities head-on and show the rest of the country and the world how it’s done.
It’s time to think big and see climate change for both the threat and opportunity that it is. If done right, climate solutions can confront historic wrongs and benefit all of humanity. If done wrong, they will perpetuate the devastating impact of pollution and extreme climate events borne by people of color everywhere.
Now’s the time to set the tone and create a vision — through the art we create, the messages we live by, the entertainment shows we produce and consume — for a world where the natural world is valued and can be enjoyed by all. Let’s get #ClimateWoke.
Favianna Rodriguez, Layel Camargo, Jess Cook, Sonia Guiñansaca, Jesús Iñiguez, Crystal Marich, Chucha Marquez, and Julio Salgado of CultureStrike