It’s so easy for me to still think of climate change as some kind of amorphous, future-tense crisis. Something I’ll have to deal with, for sure, just not right now. But what’s happening to our planet is not a future crisis; it is a living, breathing, current reality. Millions of people around the world have already come face to face with their personal nightmares of “climate dystopia,” and many of them haven’t made it out alive. Monsoons in South Asia; drought in East Africa; heat waves in India and Pakistan; hurricanes on the US Atlantic coasts. And here is the thing that we must keep reminding ourselves: those who are ALREADY most marginalized, oppressed, and exploited by global systems of power are those who will continue to suffer the most.
Right now, as I type, South Carolina’s MacDougall Correctional Institution (a privately owned corporation) is holding hundreds of inmates in their cells, despite a mandatory evacuation order from the Governor. For those prisoners, this current moment is a living “dystopia” in ways that many of us can’t even begin to imagine. The Campaign to Fight Toxic Prisons has organized an informal phone zap (link in comments) to pressure SC officials to evacuate all prisons in the flood zone. I’m not sure of its status right now, but if anyone else knows of other ways to support the prisoners please share more info in the comments.
In the coming days and weeks (and months and years and decades), many many others will need support as well. And looking ahead, here are the questions I’m holding in my heart: How will we find ways to support those most affected by this storm? Can we see this storm as a symptom of a much larger sickness — and what will we do to address the root causes of illness? How would it feel to actually sit with the heaviness of this collective global moment? Who are my neighbors? Who are your neighbors? What would it actually mean to love our neighbors as ourselves? Like, actually actually? What would we have to give up if we do? What would we have to give up if we don’t?
It’s okay to let yourself mourn.
By Kateri Boucher
Last year for my Sociology senior thesis, I chose to research the interactions between two environmental justice (EJ) organizations in a majority-Black city with a rich and complicated history of EJ work. I had made connections with folks in the EJ movement when I had lived there for a few weeks the previous summer, and I figured that studying these two organizations would be a perfect way to both learn more and get involved in work that I was drawn to. I did some background research, and then traveled to the city for a week to do interviews with members of both organizations. After documenting my findings, I submitted the paper and got a near-perfect grade on the first draft. I was proud of my work, and I was rewarded and praised for it. Continue reading