As I write this, Pacific Islanders in Vanuatu are left picking up the pieces after the worst natural disaster in recent memory ripped through the region. Vanuatu’s president referred to Cyclone Pam as a “monster,” a storm that singlehandedly leveled the capital city leaving at least sixteen confirmed dead and countless others displaced.
Closer to home, Boston is still digging out from its snowiest winter on record. Meanwhile, drought continues to plague California, and a NASA scientist recently warned the state has just one year of water supply left in its reservoirs.
Monster storms, mega droughts and record-breaking precipitation are not some distant threats in the future – they are the new normal. Climate change is here and now.
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Forget about the politicians who deny climate science, or worse, ban the use of the term “climate change.” While they bury their heads in the sand, the rest of us need to channelour frustration to collectively organize and mobilize.
A crisis this big – climate disruption is a crisis of unprecedented magnitude – calls for a radical and widespread response. Thanks to the Citizens United court decision and years of chipping away at environmental statutes, we can no longer count on our government and our regulations to protect our interests. Our democracy is eroding under the profit maximizing, “free market” machine, just as the earth we tread upon is being ravaged and raped by industrial development. Ultimately, we’re in the midst of a power struggle, with the extractive industry doubling down on tar sands, fracking, and ever more dangerous and dirty fossil fuels.
We’re starting to fight back, and it’s certainly refreshing to see fossil fuel resistance mounting globally, including a rapidly expansive, largely student-led divestment movement. But we still have a long way to go, and we must keep up the pressure.
As Frederick Douglas once said, “Power concedes nothing without a demand.” And when the stakes are as high as they are now in terms of the climate crisis, those demands have to be bold, and they have to be broad. Bold – like policies aimed at steep emissions reductions in line with climate science, not aimed at safeguarding industry. Broad – reaching beyond energy and climate policies and demanding reforms and reparations for all kinds of social ills and injustices, and uniting what are framed as disparate issues into one momentous movement for change.
From #BlackLivesMatter to immigration to LGBTQ and women’s rights, it’s time to recognize the linkages between forces of oppression and to elevate the call for systemic change and climate justice. We’re all in this together, and we need everyone to change everything.
And we especially need the energy and the voices of young people. As Millennials, we need to rise to our historic moment and lead the call for justice and the transformation to a more sustainable society. We have to treat this as the fight of our lives, for the actions we take now will determine whether the decades that follow will be uncomfortable but bearable, or truly catastrophic. With each passing day we inch closer to climate calamity. This is our reality, but we cannot turn to despair and indifference. We have to stand up and fight. Together, we can turn the tide of injustice and oppression.