Why Climate Justice is the Best Path Forward
Faith in Place’s 2020 theme is “Rooted for Climate Justice.” Over this year, we will dive deep into exploring climate change, its roots, impacts, and solutions, all with the goal of understanding how we, as a people of faith, can holistically address the climate crisis.
Climate justice means restoring our communities to mutual relationship with one another and the Earth by prioritizing climate solutions that most benefit disadvantaged communities. These solutions must not only recognize the historical roots of inequity fueling our climate crisis, but the advantage polluters have despite the negative economic and health impacts of their businesses.
Historically, communities of color have disproportionately been exposed to the negative health effects of fossil fuel extraction and burning. They also do not benefit equally from the development fossil fuels brought to richer, whiter communities.
Climate change is a scientific fact that is happening because of historic inequity. Over a century ago, the industrial revolution transformed modern life for the developed world. Technological advancement infused parts of society with newfound ease and wealth. These advancements, however, and their associated economic gain, were not distributed equally. Energy from fossil fuels expanded wealth and comfort for part of the world while the others continued to struggle to meet the needs of daily life.
Not only did everyone not benefit equally, but the danger of extracting fossil fuels as well as the health hazards associated with its burning disproportionately impacted the same communities not reaping the economic and social benefits. This inequity was especially felt by communities of color.
Image from the Chicago Race Riots in 1919. Communities of color in Illinois have long experienced a disproportionate burden of pollution and toxic waste from industrial plants including coal ash from the burning of fossil fuels.
Why Look Back?
Why look back to the roots of our climate crisis? Because the nature of the crisis informs our solutions. An unjust system built inequitably to benefit some while simultaneously harming others is going to be magnified as the impacts of climate change progress. Wealth provides a veil against the harshest effects of climate change. It can buy air conditioners, pay for electric bills, cover the increasing cost of food, provide savings when jobs are lost. In short, wealth is a buffer which most of the world does not have.
As a people of faith, we seek to love others. Our faith traditions name courage as our ability to identify environmental injustice and restore mutual relationship in our climate solutions advocacy.
A group of advocates supporting a transition to a just, clean energy economy deliver a petition with over 23,000 signatures to Gov. Pritzker in January 2020. The petition demanded a swift adoption of clean energy policies for Illinois. This would address the climate crisis and the need for equitable economic growth from the transition to clean energy.
Looking forward in 2020
Over the next year, we will unpack what climate change is and how, rooted in compassion for our world, we can engage to create swift and effective solutions that help protect against the impacts of the climate crisis. In partnership with you, we want to explore together environmental racism, the roots of climate degradation, the possible solutions, and more. If you have specific topics you are curious to learn more about, we would love your feedback. Please reach out to us. We look forward to a year of championing just climate solutions together!