Katrina, Maria, & Sandy: Climate Justice is a Feminist Issue

Under the Trump Administration these past four years, the bold advances that women have made over the past decades, particularly those of our Black, Indigenous, Women of Color, Latinx, trans, and gender non-conforming relatives, have come under threat of regressing. We know the first 100 days are crucial in setting the tone and establishing priorities for any administration. That is why during this time, the National Organization for Women (NOW) and Black Women’s Blueprint will be bringing these voices to the forefront as part of a listening and discussion series, to share the issues that matter most to us – and the issues we need the Biden-Harris Administration to prioritize as part of a feminist agenda. As part of this series, we’re pulling together big ideas from these sessions for NOW’s blog Say It Sister! in order to share the changes we need to see and policies we need to fight for all-in-one place. The next step after listening is doing. 

At our climate justice event for this series, we discussed the importance of acknowledging our connection to the climate, the need to incorporate marginalized communities in climate strategy planning, and how to actualize a sustainable world. Our insightful panel of speakers included Iakowi:He’Ne’ Oakes, the Founder and Director of the North American Indigenous Center of New York: (for) Culture, Equity and Economic Development, and the CEO of Mohawk Coterie; Yang, a Multimedia artist, spokeswoman, and steering committee member for Youth United for Climate Crisis Action (YUCCA); and Tamara Toles O’Laughlin, a National Climate Strategist Advocate for People and Planet. Listed below are the action items and themes covered during their imperative conversation. 

  • Climate and Identity: We cannot separate our identities from our environment, as we are interconnected with climate changes. It is imperative that we recognize the environment as a part of our community and family. The climate must represent the people it serves. We do not want to live in a world where breastmilk is poisoned by pollution, public health crises cause mass disasters (such as the lead poisoning crisis in Flint, Michigan), and where refugees from natural disasters are fearful to sleep in evacuation centers due to safety concerns. Our climate can determine the weather, health, safety, housing, food, and wages. Often those most affected are those excluded, including women, People of Color, and LGBTQIA+ communities. 
  • Exclusion of Natives: It is an unfortunate tradition to exclude the Native community in many cultures, but especially in America. This is evidenced in poor media and industry representation, and in residential schools used for assimilation. Many of us do not know any Native people, but as our speakers mentioned, many Native people do not know themselves. They have been conditioned to leave their culture behind. Intergenerational trauma and depression in these communities is a product of forced assimilation into modern American society. It was not long ago that it was illegal for Native peoples to even practice their traditions openly. The Native community calls on the support of United States Secretary of the Interior Deb Halaand to acknowledge her connection to Native culture and calls for Women of Color to be at the table when decisions about climate are being made.  
  • Actualizing Climate Change: In order to create real change, we need to imagine the world we want to live in and start living it. Think about sustainable changes you can make in your life and follow through with them. We need to break away from being bound to work and wages and open our minds to more connective ways of being that incorporate our communities and our earth. We must not be dismissive of radical change for a more sustainable world, but rather welcome those ideas with open arms and put them into practice. 
  • Youth Ignited: Generational unity and unity across nations sparks hope for the future. The youth are learning to self-actualize at an earlier age and become the torchbearers for change. Especially Native youth are reclaiming power and standing up against long-standing conditioning attempts to quiet their voices. We can learn from the younger generation to embrace tradition while simultaneously paving the way for a more inclusive, more sustainable world.  

You can watch a recording of the full event here

Check out future events in this series here

Chloë Williams, NOW Digital Media Intern 

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