Fighting for the environment is fighting for civil rights

Fighting for the environment is fighting for civil rights

Keeping up with the current political climate is, in a word, exhausting.

As a young, concerned citizen, Democrat, and political enthusiast, it is difficult to decide which issues are worth the time it takes to enter the cycle of angry tweeting, arguing with your relatives and playing host to yet another existential crisis. We are constantly barraged with Facebook articles and comedy routines and hot takes — many of which we agree with  — yet, doing anything other than lending a retweet to the cause seems particularly taxing on our ability to empathize. It’s not that we don’t care. Most of us are truly ambitious in our desires to save the world in one way or another, but the task of finding a place to start is becoming increasingly daunting. As advocates, we seem to face a challenging decision: neglect many worthy causes in favor of what matters to us, or spread ourselves too thin. 

It is very possible to campaign for just one lump cause while still attending to other social issues in need of assistance.

Were we to focus on just one major problem the world is facing at this moment, the environment and its protection makes for an excellent candidate. Many environmental issues are linked to issues of civil rights, meaning that by centering on the environment, our resources as defenders of our Earth and human life are utilized effectively. The Dakota Access Pipeline, for example, threatened miles of beautiful watershed by creating opportunity for dangerous oil spills. These rivers and creeks are the livelihoods of many Native American tribes living near them, and such a disaster would dramatically alter life as they know it. What’s worse is that the tribes had little to no say in the deals surrounding their homes. Had it been white American jobs on the line, the conversation would have been radically different.

If we solve our nation’s environmental problems, we will be well on our way to solving our race problems as well. Linking the two advocacy groups will only strengthen individual fights for justice. Pushing for clean water in turn pushes for clean water for those who have very limited access to it, such as the citizens of Flint, Michigan, who are currently facing a health crisis with almost no way out. Access to clean water and energy is access to clean water and energy for all, and new jobs in those sectors helps to bridge the class inequity gap. Reducing carbon emissions reduces the amounts of toxins that pollute our air, meaning reduced rates of illnesses for families that cannot afford serious medical procedures. Studying hurricanes and the factors increasing their frequency means keeping an eye on our Puerto Rican brothers and sisters and doing what we can to make sure that their lives are not torn apart by storms. When we ignore environmental issues that do not directly affect us in ways that are immediately tangible, we exclude minorities that cannot afford to lose the beauty of our planet.

If we do not care for our planet, the only people who will be able to survive the environmental crisis are the ones who can afford to. Each and every human being deserves an equal opportunity to live on a planet that is well-maintained and peaceful.

Connecting multiple areas of advocacy can do nothing but strengthen our arguments as we fight for social and environmental justice. Some may argue that focusing on the environment takes away from more pressing matters of civil liberty, but there is no equality as long as your social group determines the quality of your access to natural resources. We may draw invisible lines around our countries and states, but no one truly owns the land. We have overstepped our boundaries and become proponents of mass destruction, all the while pointing fingers at one another and harnessing nature to satisfy our personal greed. Being an activist doesn’t have to be a chore. Remember that the work you do to care for others and our planet is work done well. Streamlining the two will increase our efficiency as a movement and allow us to have the widest influence for change.

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