Climate change is becoming more visible in our community. In recent years, Washington state has seen an increase in fire season. intensified and lengthenedThe air quality index has more than once reached hazardous levelsMultiple days in a row and there was a record-breaking heat wave this past summer.
After a very hot summer, the Pacific Northwest has received enough rain to make this November one the five wettest Novembers ever recorded. according to CNN. Our community is currently living in a category five atmospheric flood; there have been and will continue being extreme rainfall, flooding of rivers, damaging winds and even landslides.
These unusual weather conditions are becoming more frequent. Kitsap County, Snohomish County, were under wind advisories beginning in November. Then they escalated into tornado warnings.
“[The] tornado scare comes days after a waterspout moved onto land and turned into a tornado on Saturday, Nov. 6 near Vancouver B.C.,” KUOW reported. “Also, a tornado formed in Battle Ground, Wash. in September.”
Survival for community members without housing — specifically the more than 11,700 community members without housing in King County (as of Jan. 2020) — will become exponentially more difficult, if not impossible, and the number of community members without housing will continue to increase. The rate at which natural disasters cause housing insecurity and displacement is already high, and this is projected to increase, especially if we don’t take drastic climate justice action.
Much of the conversation about the climate crisis on campus revolves around sustainability, Peter Fink (a student leader in climate justice coalition). Institutional Climate Action (ICA) explained. UW’s composting and recycling initiatives drown out institutional action and policy changes.
“No more fossil fuel infrastructure put in on campus, no more funding for fossil fuels, and the University of Washington no longer supporting the fossil fuel industry in any capacity,” Fink said regarding ICA’s work on holding UW to the standard of institutional changes on climate issues.
However, this year, Board of Regents (BOR) began discussingThe ICA has developed a proposal for fossil fuel divestment; however, the BOR is yet to commit to divesting fossil fuels.
“Climate justice needs to be about solutions that work for people,” Dargan Frierson, associate professor of atmospheric sciences, said. “It gets to the root causes of the problems … that can’t often be solved by those who are in charge, and [it]This involves addressing power structures. I think it’s embarrassing we still have investments in fossil fuels.”
Frierson spoke about an organization that models climate justice. Duwamish River Community Coalition.
“I think a lot of the Indigenous groups around the area have had these solutions for years,” Frierson said. “There is no shortage of great people around who are thinking about these kinds of things. It’s not often that academia actually listens. [and] there has been a bad history of folks not listening to environmental justice concerns even when there are problems right down the street.”
The Pacific Northwest is in a unique position in the face of climate change, as compared to countries in the Global South. Many UW students live in Seattle and enjoy privilege. The unfortunate reality is that the climate crisis will have a significant impact on the homeless and BIPoC.
Subvert UDLocal collective that provides mutual help to community members without housing in U-District. They have seen firsthand the unbalanced effects of climate changes.
“There were a lot of issues with wildfire smoke and not enough shelters that Seattle was providing, not enough churches or other large buildings that were either able or willing to support [them],” a student leader of Subvert UD, who requested anonymity for personal safety, said. “And then on the other end, with freezing temperatures and snow, there’s not enough heating stations. So whenever we’re trying to serve people … it is very, very difficult for us to be able to supply things you need to survive in those extreme situations that are being worsened by climate change.”
Climate grief or climate anxietyCommunity organizers are often faced with these issues, especially when they combine their activism work with community organizing. These organizers often face barriers from the institutions they rely on and sometimes struggle in growing their involvement because of apathy to climate change. Our university has a student population greater than that of some Washington cities, but not enough people to work together to improve our local community.
Collective and institutional change are needed to combat the climate crisis. This includes free or affordable housing, and divesting from fossil fuels.
Alena Alvarez Saldivar can be reached at [email protected]. Twitter: @alenaasaladbar
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