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Racism and Climate Change

Racism and Climate Change

The poem “No Sympathy for Other” is inscribed on the face of the United Nations Building. The words were written by the Persian poet Saadi more than 800 years ago:

We are interconnected. The worldwide COVID-19 pandemic has made that crystal clear.

The same is true for the worldwide crisis posed by climate change. Each crisis dramatically reveals the preexisting fractures in our society. Communities of color are first and most profoundly impacted by both COVID-19 and climate change and are least able to cope, respond, and recover.1 The roots that link climate change and COVID-19 are neither inherent to the virus, nor to the dynamics of global warming. The profound disparities are driven by social determinants and the socioeconomic and political structures embedded in our society.

As early as the mid-1970s, scientists began warning the world community about threats of climate change. Most of their predictions fell on deaf ears. Yet their predictions have been remarkably accurate. What the scientists did not accurately predict was just how quickly we would be facing the consequences. The impacts are not in faraway places, nor in the distant future. No longer can we turn a blind eye as the fury and frequency of climate-driven disasters intrude on our lives.

Multiple Crises

We are forced to face multiple crises simultaneously: the pandemic, climate change, and the effects of racism. The worldwide COVID-19 pandemic has triggered a massive international health crisis and fueled economic decline, in which escalating poverty and disparities of wealth are inescapable. Rightful rage about centuries of simmering structural racism has ignited a movement demanding urgent racial justice.

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