Climate change is a global problem, but it has not been caused by everyone equally, nor are its effects are not being felt equally. Globally, and even within the United States, wealthier groups of people have contributed more to global greenhouse gas emissions than less wealthy and people. Wealthier people and nations have burned more fuel, eaten more meat, created more emissions. Yet these wealthier groups are able to avoid the worst impacts of the changing climate they have been creating. Instead, the worst impacts are felt by people who have been systematically discriminated against and do not have the resources to respond and protect themselves and their communities. This is climate INJUSTICE.
Climate Justice calls on global society to recognize the injustices that have been dealt to marginalized communities, and to ensure climate solutions benefit everyone, and especially these communities that are being hardest hit.
Pillars of Climate Justice
In the US, the Movement for Black Lives has issued the Black Climate Mandate, a blueprint for a sustainable, renewable future in defense of Black lives, and promotes rigorous and urgent legislative action toward climate and environmental justice (CEJ), in addition to holding policy makers accountable. The six pillars of this blueprint that we are focusing on for this challenge are - Labor, Democracy, Energy, Economy, Land, and Water - which are described below.
Source: The Black Hive
No human is replaceable. The U.S. economy was built on the unpaid, enslaved, and forced labor of Black people. The globalized economic system is rooted in the exploitation of labor from the Global Black Diaspora, and has only benefited the white and wealthy few. No human is replaceable. Constant productivity is not sustainable for any worker, nor for the planet. An economy built on care and sustainability means prioritizing health, rest, joy, and purpose for all workers—and it means rejecting extractivism, and slave and manual labor, which harm our bodies, mental health, and communities.
All power to the people. The idea of a fair and just government is a vision that has never been a reality, least of all for Black people across the Global Black Diaspora. Although we are told the government was designed to represent and protect its citizens, Black people experience the opposite far too often. This is especially true when it comes to addressing the climate crisis. In order to meet the urgency of the climate crisis, we need an equitable system that prioritizes our civil, environmental, and human rights. This includes the right to civic space, community ownership, and civil disobedience.
Energy is essential. Specifically, energy that is renewable, reliable, affordable, and universally accessible. We affirm that water, health, human dignity, and the ability to engage in meaningful work are all interconnected with energy in modern life. We urgently need energy justice that empowers self-sufficiency for communities and relies on non-extractive energy sources.
Black people demand a just transition. The underlying philosophy of the global economic system is extraction and exploitation in pursuit of profit. This includes the kidnapping and enslavement of Black people from Africa, and hundreds of years of our unpaid labor, as well as rampant colonialism and postcolonial capitalism. The U.S. is also founded on the exploitation of immigrant labor—a practice that our global economy still depends on today. The U.S. and Global North are responsible for building a system that violently takes and makes profit for the few, without repair, reparations, or support in healing from these atrocities for the many. This system has pushed us into a global climate emergency that presents immense challenges that our generation must solve.
Free the land. Land is tied to our existence, dignity, and the survival of Black communities. Land provides Black communities with nourishment, housing, and healing. As a reparative measure, Black-owned land is a legacy taken in tandem with our stolen labor and hundreds of years of skilled, caring, and successful stewardship. Land determines the destinies of our communities—and our right to access and steward unspoiled, untainted, and restored land sets the conditions for all other access rights.
Water is life. And yet, it is arguably the most controversial issue surrounding the global impact of climate on Black lives. As the planet warms, sea levels are rising—resulting in disappearing land and a loss of our ability to grow enough food. And while some places are dealing with too much water, others are experiencing drought conditions, while still others do not have access to clean or safe water.