Our Liberation Must Be Centered In the Climate Justice Movement

Art by Stephanie Younger

By Stephanie Younger • 

I believe in womanism and the abolition of youth prisons. I also believe that climate justice is racial justice, and in this fight for climate justice it is important to center Black lives. Even though Black and Indigenous youth are one of the most affected communities, and have been combating this issue for a very long time, our voices are always excluded and left out of the conversation and action surrounding climate change. Similar to the fight to end gun violence, we are often seen as “divisive” when we speak out about issues that disproportionately affect us. Not only does the media portray us in ways that stereotype, ignore, discredit and marginalize our voices and lives, but we are also heavily criminalized for exercising our first amendment right. 

GreenAction.Org defines environmental racism as, the “disproportionate impact of environmental hazards on people of color.” Environmental racism also happens when the press and political leaders and community members ignore the impact this has on Black communities and other communities of color who are disproportionately affected by environmental injustice.

“Environmental racism refers to the institutional rules, regulations, policies or government and/or corporate decisions that deliberately target certain communities for locally undesirable land uses and lax enforcement of zoning and environmental laws, resulting in communities being disproportionately exposed to toxic and hazardous waste based upon race. Environmental racism is caused by several factors, including intentional neglect, the alleged need for a receptacle for pollutants in urban areas, and a lack of institutional power and low land values of people of color. It is a well-documented fact that communities of color and low-income communities are disproportionately impacted by polluting industries (and very specifically, hazardous waste facilities) and lax regulation of these industries.”

“Environmental Justice & Environmental Racism,” Green Action

My call-to-action to the press, schools, and political leaders is to give Black and Brown youth, who have been fighting for climate justice for a long time, the same attention and energy you gave to white youth who are urging political leaders to take action. We deserve the same positive news coverage that was gave to white youth, many who recently became climate activists, instead of calling us divisive, instead of criminalizing us and instead of erasing our voices.

By centering decolonization, Indigenous sovereignty, and Black liberation, not only are we protecting the future of our planet, we are also protecting those disproportionately affected by climate change and whose voices need to be centered in this movement, and acknowledging the legacies of the Black and Indigenous youth who have been fighting for the climate before us.

Stephanie Younger is a 16-year-old who advocates for womanism and the abolition of youth prisons.

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