COVID-19 shows the need for a ‘New Green Deal’

Commentary: Both COVID-19 and the pre-existing climate crisis disproportionately harm people of color

by Tina Katsanos (she/her) | Chair, The Climate Reality Project-Charlotte Chapter

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This commentary is a community-submitted op-ed. The views contained herein solely represent the views of the author.

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed, in more pointed and painful ways, how our current systems are not built to support all our communities and are, in fact, built to harm people of color. Just as African Americans are more likely to die from COVID-19, they are also more likely to be negatively impacted by pollution and climate change. Environmental racism is also a pandemic, but it is not novel.

The government responses to COVID-19 have been a day late and a dollar short, and this nation’s response to the climate crisis is over half a century late. Experts in climatology have been warning our elected officials for over 40 years about the repercussions of anthropogenic global warming. In 1997, the U.S. signed onto the Kyoto Protocol and then after fossil fuel pressures, special interests, and disinformation campaigns, we broke our pledge to start emissions reductions by 2005.

The Climate Reality Project is committed to prioritizing our local communities that are feeling the most dramatic impacts of the climate emergency. We strive to establish solidarity with low-income and marginalized communities through charitable acts and through educational programs that offer people strategies they can employ for self-reliance, resiliency, and action. However, this is not enough. We need our elected leaders, who should also be our followers, to commit to serious infrastructure changes that will protect ALL our brothers and sisters.The ability to protect one’s self during the pandemic has been, largely, a white privilege. The same has been true about climate change disruptions.

These changes will not happen at the federal level — we need grassroots elected local leaders to take this emergency seriously. We have an unprecedented opportunity to re-design the world in the wake of two massive crises. Hope is no longer an answer or comfort…we need courage and the political will to work on the re-design of our society where equity is a reality for all marginalized communities. We need a re-mapping of how we live where how we are valued will be our strength, rather than our vulnerability. This is a unique opportunity to remediate the past and to atone for some of the injustices that black, brown, and low-income communities have survived throughout the centuries. Together we can make this a reality. The Green New Deal is our current best solution. I challenge our local officials to come up with a better plan.

 


ABOUT THE WRITER

Tina Katsanos (she/her) is a lecturer at UNCC with the Department of Religious Studies. Her focus is on the intersection of environmentalism and religious identity with an emphasis on environmental justice. Tina is currently the Chair of the Climate Reality Project, Charlotte Chapter which aims for education around the causes and impacts of climate change and solutions to the crisis. Learn more online at climaterealityproject.org.


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