Break Away Blog | Read + Act

There is No Planet B

The climate crisis is not some singular event that will happen far into the future. It is happening NOW! According to the President of the UN General Assembly, we only have 9 years to prevent irreversible damage to the climate. The climate crisis impacts all of us and, as folks committed to our communities and each other, we all have a responsibility to care about it. If you dig a bit deeper (you know how we do over at Break Away), you’ll find that this crisis isn’t just about a changing climate—this is also about climate justice. 

Protesters at a climate march in Kenya

Image via DW

WHAT IS CLIMATE JUSTICE?

“Climate justice operates at the intersection of racial and social rights, environmental and economic justice. It focuses on the roots [sic] causes of climate change, and calls for a transformation to a sustainable, community-led economy.” (Grassroots International)

WHAT IS ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE?

“Environmental justice is the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income, with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.” (EPA)

Indigenous Folks Have Been Leading the Charge on Climate Justice

Indigenous and native communities and people have a connection to and knowledge systems based around the physical environment and land. This makes Indigenous peoples uniquely positioned to understand the perils of climate change. From water rights to recovering and revitalizing stolen land to pipeline protests, Indigenous peoples have been at the forefront of the fight for climate justice for decades. The Dakota Access Pipeline protests of 2016-17 highlighted Indigenous activism, specifically Indigenous youth activists

Intersectionality is Crucial to Combat the Climate Crisis

Along with Indigenous peoples, BIPOC and women of all races are disproportionately impacted by the climate crisis. They are already living with the consequences of doing nothing, so Black folks and women are serving as leaders in the climate justice movement and fighting for their communities and the planet. 

The climate crisis stems from multiple oppressive systems. It’s built on capitalist exploitation, white supremacy, and patriarchy. Any proposed climate justice legislation must address these overlapping systems of oppression. Solving only the climate crisis (if that were even possible) is like treating the symptom, not the disease. 

The End of Fossil Fuel

Just 100 (fossil fuel extraction) companies make up for 71% of global greenhouse gas emissions. The need to transition to renewable energy is clear. However, fossil fuels are profitable and we all know that money talks. You may not be able to go buy an electric car, but you can demand your representatives hold these companies accountable. 

There is No Planet B

So where do we go from here? It’s pretty easy to feel frozen by the doom and gloom of it all, but there are ways to make an impact in the fight for climate justice.

INDIVIDUAL SUSTAINABILITY

Recycle 

To recycle something is to break it down and use its materials to create that same thing again. You can recycle through your county’s waste management.

  • Not all recyclables are created equal. Cans, glass, and paper are easy to recycle. Plastic is a lot harder and knowing what is and is not recyclable is tricky
  • Google “[your county] recycling” to see what materials you can actually recycle, because every county is different
  • If you don’t have a recycling bin: In most places it’s free to get one and the cost of recycling is already included in your trash bill

Reuse

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure” — said somebody at some point and now lots of people say it. 

  • Repurpose single use items into something new, like using the containers of spent candles as planters or tschotske holders
  • Join a local “buy nothing” group to find a new home for items you no longer need or to find something you need that someone else is rehoming

Reduce

Ultimately, what we all need to do, both as individuals and a society, is radically reduce our consumption. 

  • Borrow rarely used or large items from friends/folks in your community (think a drill or pressure washer)
  • Think twice about buying that new outfit at the mall. Textile waste (mostly from the fast fashion industry) makes up for over 11 million tons of trash per year
LARGE-SCALE CLIMATE JUSTICE

Doing your part is all well and good (and certainly eating less meat is beneficial), but individual sustainable living is but a small sliver of the change that needs to happen. Our world has to drastically change in order to combat the climate crisis and for climate justice to come to fruition. And there are solutions out there. 

Green New Deal venndiagram

The Green New Deal

Senator Ed Markey and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez revived their push for the Green New Deal this past Tuesday. The Green New Deal is a three-pronged resolution to combat the climate crisis: reach net-zero emissions by 2050; create new jobs; and fight racial, gender, and economic inequity. Contact your representatives about supporting climate legislation like the THRIVE Act. Other countries have also proposed proponents of the Green New Deal into their plans to combat the climate crisis.

Image via Sierra Club

Break Free From Plastic 

Break Free From Plastic has SIX different campaigns that you can get involved in, including one on promoting plastic free campuses. With education and resources readily available, Break Free From Plastic makes it easy to do something.

Dependent Liberation

As part of our jobs, we think a lot about liberation —  what it means and what it looks like for us as individuals, our loved ones, and society at large.

Sit for a moment and dream up what liberation looks like for you and yours. 

Now, understand that none of us can be truly free while there is an entire career dedicated to detaining people. A career that is allowed to murder Black folks without consequence.

The U.S. policing system was created to capture escaped enslaved people. It was created to ensure the systematic oppression of Black people. Today, it is still doing what it was created to do. Daunte Wright didn’t deserve to die and it is unclear whether police reform could have saved him. There are compelling arguments to be made that reform will never happen because policing’s very existence depends on the oppression of Black folks. This is why abolitionists are anti-reform and seek to defund, and ultimately abolish, the police.

There is no service that the police provide that couldn't be done through other, less deadly, means. But —  if the thought of no police makes you nervous, get curious and explore why. There are loads of articles out there on alternatives to policing that better meet community needs, but below are a few to get you started: 

These articles are just a small sampling and we highly encourage you to do more of your own research.

Our liberation is dependent on one another. Even with whatever privilege you may possess, you will never know liberation until we ALL know liberation. Use your dreams of liberation to fuel you in this fight and keep the hope alive that one day, we can all be free. 

Women are a Force

Content warning: some links contain explicit descriptions of misogynistic violence.

A Long + Winding Road

When researching for this piece, it was easy to feel suffocated by the crushing weight of gender inequality. Headlines about misogynoir in the workplace, calls for “saving” [women’s] sports from trans women, and countries abandoning an international treaty protecting women dwarf headlines of women’s successes and achievements. 

Women have certainly come a long way, but the road to true gender equality feels never ending. Research shows that the pandemic has set back women in the workforce. Women are still far from having equal representation in U.S. politics. The world has, yet again, been jarred by racist and misogynist violence in Atlanta

I spend a lot of my personal time trying to convince people to care about women. To care about BIPOC women. To care about trans women, who are women full stop. Today, I chose to not focus on how far we have to go. Instead I am using this platform to celebrate women’s achievements. It is, after all, Women’s History Month!

Who Run the World?

Women are a force. We blur dichotomies. We break records. We have prowess. We are the fruits of this earth. The nutrients in its soil. The strength behind the wind and the waves. The rain you need in times of drought. The warmth of sunshine.

And we are not to be underestimated.

Below is a roundup of women, past and present, thriving in their respective fields. Peruse the links to feel some joy and celebrate these extraordinary women. 

Women in the Arts
Women in Business
Women in Education
Women in Politics
Women in Sports
Women in STEM

The Importance of Black Stories

How Black Stories Have Been Told

You may find it unsurprising that Black stories have been mismanaged and reconstructed over the years. Anyone who has attempted to tell the full story has been silenced, defunded, or others have attempted to discredit them. There are resources out there, like the Zinn Education Project, working “to introduce students to a more accurate, complex, and engaging understanding of United States history than is found in traditional textbooks and curricula”

However, the curriculum shared in our public school system was written by white people for white people. Black stories are rarely included in the narrative (usually resigned to months like Black History Month). When they are, the focus is on stories we are comfortable with or have been “wrapped up” well. You know the ones.

Stories that don’t mention MLK’s anti-Capitalist, anti-Imperialist beliefs. Stories that only talk about Rosa Parks’ role in the bus boycotts, but don’t mention Claudette Colvin. Stories focusing on the resilience of Elizabeth Eckford of the “Little Rock Nine,” but ignoring the tormenting she endured at the hands of white peers and the enabling administration during her year at Little Rock Central High.

Elizabeth Eckford then and now

We either ignore, or briefly cover, the horrors of slavery. We’re taught narratives like workers being brought over from Africa; the Civil War being about “States’ rights;” not mentioning the origins of policing being slave catching patrols; and we’re told the “faithful slave” narrative, but never the stories about slave revolts and resistance. 

The Lasting Effects of White Supremacy

Black folks today are still facing the effects of white supremacy in this country. We’re still discovering and uncovering Black contributions to the arts, medicine, science, technology, and more. Four years ago the world was introduced to NASA mathematicians Katherine G. Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson through the film Hidden Figures. But even in the movies that should center Black women, a white male savior is inserted and applauded for doing the bare minimum deed of not being as racist as his colleagues. 

The majority of Black stories we see in the media are created by people who are weirdly obsessed with “trauma porn.” As a result, we’ve become desensitized to harm inflicted on Black people.

Black stories must be told truthfully and honestly. The best way to ensure this is done? LET BLACK PEOPLE TELL THEIR OWN STORIES!

Black Stories in the Future

In case you’ve forgotten or were unaware, it’s Black Futures Month! Many only know of it as Black History Month but I’d like to bring to our attention: 

THERE ARE BLACK PEOPLE IN THE FUTURE!! 

We give thanks for the talents of Octavia Butler, a Black science fiction author, who helped lay the framework for what we consider Afrofuturism

Parable of the Sower novel coverAfrofuturism is the reimagining of a future filled with arts, science and technology seen through a Black lens. Afrofuturism imagines and creates a world “rooted in and unapologetically celebrating the uniqueness and innovation of Black culture.” It doesn’t center whiteness and white supremacy, or trauma caused by them. These stories are important and worthy of telling.

When we talk about telling Black stories, we must remember that Blackness is as beautiful as it is complex. We contain multitudes.

Getting one story from one Black person (whether that be a family member, lover, or your Black friend) DOES NOT tell the story of ALL Black people. It doesn’t do justice to the diversity in Blackness because of our queerness, socioeconomic status, citizenship status, etc. Our stories also differ geographically. My experience in Decatur, Georgia is not the same as someone in Cape Town, South Africa, or even a different city in the U.S.

There are many Black stories to be told. Read that again: there are many Black stories to be told! Keeping this in mind helps keep us honest about all that we do not know and prevents us from making “big T” truths out of our “little t” truths. It leaves room for others to share their perspectives, for knowledge and opinion to be created together. 

Black Narrative Power

A dear friend of mine is a part of a project, Media 2070, that asks the question: What would be different for Black folks if we had always owned our stories? 

This is a question worth deeply considering. 

I encourage you all to check out the work Media 2070 is doing to reclaim and embrace what they call Black Narrative Power:

Black Narrative Power means “we have the ability to really hold tenderly and steward our stories from ideation to creation to distribution and everywhere in between that process.” -  Alicia Bell, Media 2070

I believe the future of Black stories (of all kinds) depends on how we tell the truth about the past, our present moment (leaning into Black Narrative Power), and how we imagine our future (free from the white gaze and approval).

My Black Futures’ wish is for this to become a reality. May it be so.