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We Were Already Over 350 ppm When I Was Born

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Climate change is such an overwhelming problem that many people understandably want to keep it separate from other issues. After all, the task seems daunting enough already. To avoid catastrophic climate disruption, global emissions of greenhouse gases must be slashed by 45 percent by 2030, requiring unprecedented transformations in energy, agriculture, and other key economic sectors, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change declared last October. But treating the climate crisis as a stand-alone problem is a mistake. Issues of justice—economic justice, racial justice, gender justice, and intergenerational justice—lie at the heart of this crisis, and these injustices must be addressed if the fight for a livable future is to succeed. We can’t simply slap solar panels everywhere and call it a day. We have to dismantle the systems of oppression that gave rise to and perpetuate the climate crisis, including colonialism, racism, and patriarchy.

Many people trace the origins of today’s climate crisis to the Industrial Revolution, when humans first began to burn large amounts of coal, but the crisis’s true roots extend further back, to the onset of colonialism. When European colonizers ventured to Africa, Asia, North and South America, they invariably plundered the local natural resources, damaged habitats, hunted species to extinction, and often forced human inhabitants into slavery. Undergirding European colonialism was the assumption that everything on the earth was meant to be extracted, bought, and sold—and to make an elite minority very rich. In the eyes of the colonizers, the “new” lands they encountered had no owners—no one had purchased them with a recognizable currency or could prove ownership with property records—so it was free pickings. Along with this attitude came the idea that nothing—not air, not water, not trees, not animals—was sacred or priceless.

Colonialism’s mindset of heedless extraction, greed, and human exploitation not only planted the seeds of today’s climate crisis, it remains visible in the crisis’s central injustice: although the poor are responsible for only a tiny share of humanity’s greenhouse gas emissions, they generally suffer first and worst from the heat waves, droughts, storms, rising seas, and other effects of those emissions. Most countries in Asia, Africa, and South America that endured centuries of colonization remain relatively poor today, and even countries like India and China whose prosperity is increasing emit much less per capita than do the rich countries in North America and Europe. Extreme weather and other climate impacts strike all over the world, but the rich are better positioned to withstand those impacts. The rich have the money to build sea walls, for example, and to operate satellites that warn about an impending hurricane so coastal dwellers can retreat to safety. And when disaster strikes, nonwhite or non-affluent communities are often shortchanged during relief efforts. After Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans in 2005, black homeowners received $8,000 less per family in government resettlement aid than did white homeowners. Which helps explain why, even eight years after the storm, roughly 80 percent of the mostly black residents of the city’s Lower Ninth Ward had not returned.

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Thanks !

Thanks for sharing this, you are awesome !