Sacrifice zones

I’ve spent the last year deeply immersed in the climate movement. I call it the climate movement because it’s got a different flavor than the environmental movement. There’s an underlying understanding, though certainly not agreement among people I’m working with, that capitalism and all its baggage are at the root of the climate crisis. Different than the environmental movement, which has always seemed to have tunnel vision or perhaps you could call it “forest trail vision,” focusing on the trees, the birds, the clear air, the great outdoors…  But not the people.I make this distinction, because many involved in the current climate movement have come to it from the environmental movement. On my more compassionate days, I have more patience for those who are still learning the difference between the two — that it’s much more than urgency. But on days like today, I my patience is replaced with words “sacrifice zones” running through my head, like a mantra that’s equal parts tear-inducing and zapping me to speak up.

Why sacrifice zones?  Here in the United States, we are among the most privileged people on this planet. Our country and our corporations, because of our economic system, has much control over the livelihoods of people all over this planet. In turn, our country and corporations, make decisions that sacrifice people and livelihoods. That looks like farmers in India who can’t water their crops because their groundwater has been sucked dry by Nestle; it looks like children who are sent to work in sweatshops in Bangladesh to earn money for their families that can no longer afford to live on their farm lands and were forced to move to the city; kids in the US who live by mega-polluters and get asthma at an early age.

Our economic system and policies sacrifice people. So when we, as white liberals, sit around and debate whether a policy that would sacrifice some people, is worth supporting because it could help solve the climate crisis, it makes my stomach stir. And it lights a fire in my belly because so many of the people in my life – the do-gooder well-meaning people, just don’t get the power and privilege they have. I remind myself that my hard work is to keep pushing these conversations, even if it makes people feel uncomfortable.

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