Police are killing us, coronavirus is stalking us, jobs are disappearing and the White House administration keeps throwing gasoline on the whole dumpster fire. And of course, all this is just the latest chapter in a 400 plus-year-old story of systemic racism in this country. It’s one trauma after another, piled on top of us, making everyday life seem unbearable. For many of us, we’ve been saying “I can’t breathe” long before the police killings of Eric Garner, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and Tony McDade.
But still, we rise. And in city after town after suburb, we’re in the streets, marching and protesting and demanding change. You can’t go anywhere in 2020 without hearing someone call out for justice.
As a Black queer storyteller, I’ve found my form of direct action through sharing the stories of others. As a consultant, I work with amazing leaders centering another facet of justice we cannot ignore: climate justice. Our communities are our environment — they are where we live and thrive. Clean air, safe water and healthy soils producing good food shouldn’t be things that only people living in the “right” zip codes enjoy. We all deserve to live in a safe, healthy environment — in safe, healthy communities. And that means curbing climate change.
That’s why I’m hosting a new show from The Solutions Project that offers joy, hope and real talk about climate justice. Whether you’re a newbie to the justice movement or have been campaigning for years, I hope you’ll watch Climate Curious to hear from solutionaries who are radically imagining a better planet for our communities, and celebrities like Don Cheadle, Regina Hall and Mark Ruffalo who support them. The show debuts at 4 p.m. ET on Tuesday, June 23, livestreaming on The Solutions Project’s Facebook page and YouTube channel.
Right now we’re living in a moment of liberation for all of us. From the teardown of statues that symbolize racism to inspiring marches, like the one in Brooklyn last week where 15,000 people came out to support Black trans lives, more of us are saying enough is enough. And while “I can’t breathe” has become a rallying cry for Black Lives Matter, it’s an everyday reality for a lot of us. Black and brown communities suffer disproportionately from the air pollution that comes from burning dirty energy and causes climate change. Black kids are twice as likely to be hospitalized because of asthma than white kids, and four times more likely to die from it. Plus, Black people are more likely to suffer from respiratory and cardiovascular diseases aggravated by air pollution. So when a respiratory disease like COVID-19 comes around, our lungs are most vulnerable.
It sucks. But still, we rise.
I believe in a better world for all of us, liberated from police brutality, from white supremacy, from systems that have been in places so long that too many people don’t even see them anymore. And just like the Defund Police movement, the climate justice movement is working toward the day when instead of targeting Black and brown people, we invest in them and create healthy, safe, thriving communities.
What would it be like if nobody had to go to a gas station ever again, because we ditched gas-powered cars, trucks and buses for clean public transportation and electric vehicles?
What would it be like to go to the bodega down the street and be able to buy not only Hot Cheetos, but also affordable farm-fresh fruit and vegetables, too?
And what would it be like if, instead of worrying about paying utility bills and knowing the money’s going to some executive’s bonus and contributing to climate change, our communities controlled their own clean and healthy sources of power, like community solar arrays and wind farms?
These things are happening now, in Black and brown communities across the country, thanks to amazing and inspirational leaders living on the frontlines of climate change and campaigning for justice and 100% clean energy. And you can get inspired by them, laugh with them and ask questions when you watch Climate Curious.
On the first show, we’ll tap into the wisdom of elders. South Carolina’s Rev. Leo Woodberry is an OG of the movement who’s taken his message of Justice First all around the world. We’ll also meet badass Afro-indigenous Latinx community leader Elizabeth Yeampierre of Brooklyn, who’s an amazing storyteller.
And we’ve got The Hulk! Mark Ruffalo from The Avengers movies is joining us, too. He’s committed to using his celebrity superpowers to spotlight climate justice leaders. Mark co-founded The Solutions Project, which supports frontline groups working for climate justice, especially groups led by people of color and women. Climate Curious will amplify their grantees’ voices and the voices of others working toward a cleaner, safer, more prosperous future.
So drop by for great stories, a lot of laughs and a chance to ask questions. Take a deep breath, settle in and join us.
With over a decade of experience in social justice and nonprofit work, Sean A. Watkins is a communications consultant, master storyteller, writer, founder and owner of the Watkins Agency of Joy.