Image credit: 2017 Human Mosaic Aerial Art; Lead Artist: Mavis Muller; Photographer: John Newton
The science is clear and lacking a hint of doubt – human activity is driving the degree and pace of climate change. While the data and scientific community have reached consensus, climate justice recognizes that the crisis is bigger than physical science alone and includes social, psychological, ethical and political components as well.
Some might assume that the climate cannot discriminate and therefore all humans will be impacted equitably. If we dig a little deeper, we know that is not the case. The climate cannot discriminate but, in a system riddled with inequity, we will not all feel impacts the same or have the privilege and resources to adapt.
Climate change has too often been seen as a strictly environmental problem when it is in fact a deeply human issue, as those who live closest to the land have been warning for decades. Marginalized communities are impacted first and more severely by changes in our warming world.
The most vulnerable among us often cannot afford to fight back against injustice, remediate or move when the landscape changes, nor do they want to give up and leave the land they have called home and stewarded for many generations or, in the case of indigenous people, for time immemorial.
The painful truth is that although human activity has unequivocally influenced the degree and pace of climate change, not all humans have contributed to that activity equally. Colonization and industrialization have commodified natural resources. Capitalistic values and ways of life were forced on native residents. Those who have done the least to contribute to the problem are dealing most directly with its repercussions.
This is particularly evident here in Alaska where there are 229 federally-recognized Tribes, with some feeling the impacts first and most dramatically. Already entire native communities have been uprooted due to the effects of climate-induced coastal erosion in Western Alaska. This summer, subsistence communities along the Yukon River are experiencing a disastrous failure in the Chinook and Chum salmon runs they have always relied on to feed and support their families and communities.
Within the Cook Inlet watershed, Inletkeeper’s temperature research confirms that not all salmon streams will be affected by our warming world in the same way or at the same pace. This is particularly relevant because Cook Inlet communities relying on one river for their traditional salmon may be increasingly food insecure as compared to communities that can take advantage of a wide range of fishing or buying opportunities. Climate justice means seeking climate solutions that are community selected, culturally relevant, work for everyone, are not cost-prohibitive and leave no one behind.
Please join us in our commitment and vision of a watershed with clean water and climate justice for all.
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