Over the last month, the climate movement has given me much to think about.
I’ve been thinking about the Yellow Vest movement in France, and how clearly it demonstrates that carbon taxes that burden the working class are not a real climate solution.
I’ve been thinking about the still vague but very exciting Green New Deal. (I highly recommend you seek out a recent interview of Kali Akuno by In These Times, about the threat of the Green New Deal becoming green capitalism, and how the left must create pressure to make the legislation accountable to grassroots communities.) The Green New Deal seems like it could be a platform in the 2020 election, which means it will stay in the public eye.
I also can’t stop thinking about the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report that came out in October, giving us a deadline of 12 years to utterly transform the global economy. Or about how we failed to adopt the report’s findings at the recent climate talks in Poland, thanks to pressure from the U.S. and other top oil-producing countries.
The holiday season had me facetiming or playing on the floor with the babies in my life whom I love. My column daydreams became homages and love letters to them, and to the possibility of life. In that spirit, I offer you this open letter to the babies in my life, as we navigate this new year, and this new climate reality.
To the little ones whom I love,
When I started writing this column four months ago, I was determined to emerge from a period when I could no longer look squarely at the climate crisis. After years of constant immersion in the numbers and projections, and grassroots campaigns against the fossil fuel industry, I had become despairing, and I needed to look inward. More honestly, I needed to look away.
In those years of reprieve, I buried myself in other work. I worked on campaigns for health care justice. I invested in my relationships. I worked on my own healing, because #MeToo, and because over the years it had become clear that as much as anything, movements ask us to do the work to become as fully alive and embodied as possible, in the service of liberation.
The past few years of looking inward and elsewhere were necessary. And of course the work of community building, organizing for racial justice, transforming institutions to serve people over profit, healing from trauma — all are fundamental to the radical transformations required to address the climate crisis. But the truth that I am asking myself to no longer look away from is that the climate crisis sets the timeline and conditions for every single project we undertake.
Climate change intersects with every struggle for justice and liberation, yes. And it is up to all of us to articulate that relationship explicitly. We must get explicit about how any of our victories (in health care, education, immigrant justice, housing justice, transportation justice, prison abolition, grassroots feminism, demilitarization, etc.) is predicated on keeping fossil fuels in the ground.
This declaration is not revelatory, and I do not mean to preach. Incredible, intersectional movements are being built on this principle. This is a mantra that I know I need in this moment, in order to stay accountable to you, the babies in my life, and your peers, and all of the life that hangs in the balance. Do not look away. Be explicit. Stay explicit.
This is my pledge. I will strive daily to stay accountable to the possibility of life, to resist the inclination to numb, or turn away, or to become distracted by the infinite distractions that modern capitalism offers. I will continue on my path of healing. When I am despairing, I will find courage in the examples of every human being who ever struggled for life in the face of catastrophe. I will find joy whenever I can, and I will remain steadfast when I can’t.
I love you, and I am glad you are here.
Yours now and for the future,