Climate Crisis: Perpetuating the Global Refugee Crisis and Harming Frontline Communities: Why the climate movement must be intersectional
By Olivia Schroeder
In recent years, our Earth has been swept by the most devastating natural disasters ever witnessed. These wildfires, droughts, landslides, flooding, and earthquakes are products of our warming and dying planet, caused by our inability to act on the climate crisis. The reality is that we are killing our planet. Our authoritative systems and capitalist societies have chosen wealth over life. They profit off of the suffering of our planet, our supporter of life, our home. Big oil and gas corporations are taking our air, our oceans, our biodiversity, the lifeblood of our planet, to line their pockets. Strewn on this trail of greed are the bodies of Earth’s organisms. 99 percent of life ever present on Earth is now estimated by scientists to be extinct (PBS).
These events are forcing millions of people to leave their homes. A 2018 study by The World Bank estimates that 150 million people will become displaced by the climate crisis and adopt the term ‘climate refugee.’ Climate events and income and wealth disparity are contributing to an influx of climate refugees. These refugees, people who are not responsible for the perpetration of the climate crisis, are the same ones who are predominantly harmed. Frontline communities, communities of color, and indigenous communities who directly experience the effects of the climate crisis are the ones disproportionately affected by the actions of the rich and privileged.
Systems of oppression including colonization, social inequality, and environmental racism contribute directly to the suffering of frontline communities as people are displaced by droughts, floods, famine, and conflict over natural resources. The wealthy and privileged will have a greater likelihood of evading these drastic events, a cycle that continues to exacerbate inequities. As countries around the world close their borders, how will we come together to help climate refugees, a population whose number is only increasing? Will we work to reform immigration to accept people of all nationalities, races, origins, sexes, and religions, because they are people with hopes and dreams like us? Or will we continue to let our governments and corporations profit off of the sixth mass extinction happening before our very own eyes?
As a response to the drastic inequality of the climate crisis, the climate strike movement is led by indigenous youth, youth of color, and members of the frontlines communities which face the brunt of the effects of the climate crisis. Uplifting the voices of frontline activists is critical to ensuring that all people are represented in a major social, political and economic revolution.We must stand with them and demand that our governments protect us, our children, and our planet. We must urge legislators to write laws for our future, not for gas and oil titans who profit off of the suffering of people and the environment. We must stand up for the causes we believe in, and fight to make our planet a better place for all those living on it. We cannot allow decisions to be made by the rich and privileged; we need the opinions and voices of people from all walks of life. Aligning our efforts to protect our planet will come with diverse, open, and inclusive discussions on change.
We must stand up and raise our voices for the voiceless. We must use our privilege to protect others.
This fight to protect our planet will be the biggest effort that humans have undergone. Our actions, if forward-looking, sustainable, ethical and intersectional, will save our planet.
About the Author
Olivia Schroeder, a high school Senior at Lakeside High School, an organizer for WA Youth Climate Strike, and a volunteer at the Seattle Aquarium. Schroeder hopes to become a marine biologist.