Climate Justice Means Real Solidarity
Today we — a group of Seattle climate activists—chained ourselves together to block deportation buses at the Northwest Detention Center. Alongside members of the Trans and/or Womyn’s Action Camp (TWAC) and Northwest Detention Center Resistance, we risked our safety and our liberty by blocking roads and preventing the week’s deportations.
As climate activists we take these risks because we believe the fight for migrant and climate justice are one and the same. We hope these actions inspire others in our movement to imagine a deeper, more engaged solidarity.
Some have asked us why we are taking this action when the climate is at a crisis point. At the most basic level, we believe that people of conscience must care about human suffering, violence and injustice wherever and however it takes place.
Some of us have had friends stolen from their families by the violence of the immigration system; some of us are recent immigrants or children of immigrants; and all of us who are not indigenous have a family history of immigration. Now more than ever the brutality of our militarized borders are on display. The degrading and dehumanizing conditions inside immigrant detention centers are splashed across national headlines. While the world watches hundreds of thousands of people make harrowing crossings into Europe, the brutality of border imperialism is unmistakable. On top of this the Northwest Detention Center, like so many of America’s prisons, is built on a toxic waste site: adding long term health effects to the trauma of detention and deportation.
Fierce passion about one injustice does not diminish our resolve to end others. The same compassion that forces us to defend communities and future generations threatened by climate chaos compels us to act now. If we want to avoid an ugly future, such compassion is not optional.
As the planet heats up, we will see more and more people leaving their homes and crossing borders. Whether the immediate cause is war, drought, famine or something else, climate change will displace millions of people. This is already happening and will continue to worsen even if we transition immediately to clean energy. Today, people are fleeing a conflict in Syria that was dramatically exacerbated by extreme drought and global warming.
The nations that caused this crisis have a basic obligation to welcome migrants with open arms. We must create a world where safety and justice are more important than arbitrary borders. If we can’t find a way to welcome and support migration in a rapidly warming world, dystopia awaits us. In the climate-disrupted world we will inherit a militarized border and abusive gulag system can only grow into an even more violent police state.
If we truly believe in the world changing impacts of global warming we have an obligation to act now for the open and compassionate society we need to build.
People inside and outside the climate movement have criticized it for focusing more on melting glaciers than people. But finally, we’re seeing the blossoming of a climate justice movement that tells another narrative—one that shows the meaning of the science through the lens of people’s lives: the 2,000 dead in this summer’s Karachi heat wave, the devastation of Typhoon Haiyan, the families without water in central California.
It was heartening to see people from so many movements come together in an expression of interconnectedness for the People’s Climate March in New York last year. The Movement for Black Lives has inspired many climate activists to think, talk, and write about racial justice in our fight and to rethink climate disasters like Hurricane Katrina through that lens.
But true solidarity can’t be built by simply inviting everyone to join us in the climate tent. As a movement we have to recognize that the climate crisis is one of many created by colonialism, capitalism, and white supremacy, and we have to be invested in them as well. We need to demonstrate that our movement can respectfully meet allies in struggle on their terms, and that we are ready to take real risks for them. There’s an important discussion about racial and migrant justice happening in the climate movement, but we need action as well as discussion.
This is one step in that journey. We call on other climate activists to make these connections before it’s too late, and start doing the hard work of building the deeper relationships we need to meet our shared crisis and our shared liberation. This is what climate justice means to us.
We cannot be made safe with fences, walls and borders; we can only be safe if we learn how to take care of one another. By strengthening connections and working together, we can navigate the turbulent new world we’ve created with decency, ingenuity, and warmth. Besieged, earth’s climate is quickly turning both fragile and violent, but we don’t have to. Instead, we can and must strengthen what makes us resilient: cooperation, openness, and compassion. Of these, we can always have an abundance—and whatever comes, they will serve us well.
~ Carissa Knipe, Sierra Klingele, Ed Mast, Hannah Madrone and Matthew Horwitz