Recently, we have been witnessing one natural disaster after another. And as I watch Jeff Bezos use his trillions to blast off into space in what I am assuming is an attempt to escape the worst that is yet to come, I can not help but feel incredibly angry. Angry that our country chooses to focus on this, rather than more serious matters, and that men like Bezos, those in the top one percent, who hold the funds to solve climate change, spend it on anything but.
Now, I am sure you are wondering why should we care so much? Millionaires have the right to spend their hard-earned money however they please. And, to some degree, that is true. What this theory dismisses is the responsibility we all hold to do better for the planet. Not to mention the fact that climate change impacts all communities differently.
Yes, aspects of climate change impact everyone, whether it be by extreme heat waves, sinkholes, or intense flooding. It is no secret, however, that it disproportionately effects those within marginalized communities. For example, people who are homeless are exposed to these harsh conditions with no protection. And the reality is it is often people of color who are more likely to face these consequences.
Black and Latinx are overrepresented in poverty in comparison to their overall representation within a population (National Alliances to End Homelessness, 2021). This means that, due to incarceration rates, lack of generational wealth, housing discrimination, or needing to spend all savings on health-related issues (all of which are systems that are influenced or built by white supremacy), people of color are more likely to experience homelessness in comparison to their white counterparts. Although one’s susceptibility to homelessness can make them more vulnerable to the effects of climate change, this is not the only way BIPoC are disproportionately exposed.
It has been noted that people who live in predominantly Black communities are more likely to die from a premature death due to air pollution (American Lung Association, 2021). A great deal of situations such as this can be contributed to redlining, or the collection of systemic policies and practices that aim to exclude Black Americans from the home mortgage market, segregating them to specific areas with limited resources and poor property values (Equal Justice Initiative, 2019). While this may not be a blatant reality at the moment, its consequences are still present, such as pollutants being dumped in these neighborhoods.
Yes, climate change impacts everyone. But we can not solve climate change without first addressing and implementing climate justice. So, for now, I will just leave you with this…
To Jeff Bezos, and every other cisgender, white male billionaire (all billionaires, actually),
We do not care that you are going to space. This is simply an example of how you value your life above all others. If you genuinely want to impress us, fund climate change, and implement climate justice.
The girl who wants to call you in.
American Lung Association. (2021). Disparities in the Impact of Air Pollution. American Lung Association. https://www.lung.org/clean-air/outdoors/who-is-at-risk/disparities.
Equal Justice Initiative. (2019, December 19). Redlining. Equal Justice Initiative. https://eji.org/news/history-racial-injustice-redlining/.
National Alliance to End Homelessness. (2021, April 1). Homelessness and Racial Disparities. National Alliance to End Homelessness. https://endhomelessness.org/homelessness-in-america/what-causes-homelessness/inequality/.