Op-eds, Opinions

Anderson: In the fight for climate justice, the time is now

Op-ed Contributor
Friday, September 7, 2018

Some say we’re reaching the point of no return with the effects of climate change. To be clear, we’re not just running out of time; we are out of time. Forest fires rage, hurricanes decimate islands and coastlines, asthma rates are climbing and we just experienced the hottest August ever recorded in Rhode Island. We must make major changes now or our life here on this planet will be dismal, with many people unable to survive.

Climate Action RI, a volunteer non-profit organization that originated as an offshoot of Resist Hate RI in early 2017, knows that climate change is not just an environmental fight, but also a fight against social and ethical injustice. Across our nation and here in Rhode Island, low-income neighborhoods and communities of color are already bearing the burden of climate change as corporate interests are put before the health and well-being of people. As fossil fuel companies build infrastructure in these communities, black, brown and indigenous people are hit early and hard by an economy built on extraction and abuse that fails to accommodate the needs of all people. Thousands of people in the United States — most of them from communities overlooked and ignored time and time again — will die from the disastrous effects of unchecked greenhouse emissions enabled by irresponsible government leaders.

At CARI, we are no longer just talking about what needs to be done to mitigate climate change, but taking direct action to wake up the public and our elected officials to the catastrophe already unfolding. Over fifty years ago, people took a stand and marched from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, against the crimes of racial injustice. It was a tipping point in the public’s consciousness. Today we see that the Civil Rights Movement was the beginning of a long fight that goes on to this day. We are hoping that the actions we are taking — along with many other environmental organizations — will create a movement so strong and effective that it can no longer be ignored.

We are taking bold action to fight for environmental justice and standing in solidarity with the communities that are being hit first and the hardest. It is for this reason that we will be joining people from all over the world to participate in the Rise for Climate, Jobs and Justice — on Saturday, September 8, at 6:00pm at Roger Williams National Monument Park — to demand real climate leadership from our elected officials and an end to the fossil fuel era. Renewable energy has never been cheaper or easier to obtain. It’s time for governments and the business community to embrace the inevitable renewable energy revolution.

At the Rhode Island Rise for Climate Justice event, we’re asking the public to connect the dots between extreme weather and climate change. We’re also rising up against Providence’s popular WaterFire sponsored by National Grid to protest the company’s plan to build a liquefied natural gas facility in the Port of Providence, adjacent to neighborhoods with some of the highest rates of asthma in the state. Our protest will be peaceful but very visible, and we invite the public to join in. Together we’ll show that people everywhere are building a movement committed to a just transition away from fossil fuels and an extractive economy to a regenerative one that accommodates everyone. As the leaders of The People’s Climate Movement who created the Rise for Climate, Jobs and Justice day of action said, “To change everything, we need everyone.” The time is now.

Kendra Anderson is one of the original members of Climate Action RI and is currently part of the leadership team. She lives in Warwick, RI, and can be reached at andersonhomestay@gmail.com. Please send responses to this op-ed to letters@browndailyherald.com and op-eds to opinions@browndailyherald.com.