Activism Green New Deal

Striking for a Livable Planet is Striking for Justice

Written by Sven Eberlein

As I was assembling the posters I had printed from the Arts Kit to make signs for tomorrow’s Global Climate Strike, I was reflecting back on a week in which the themes of justice so powerfully laid out in the Green New Deal resolution were all around me.

Green New Deal poster by Ricardo Levins Morales. Artist statement from the Green New Deal Arts Kit: “I became an artist, navigating the currents of mass social movements I got involved with as a young person. Anti-colonial struggle, labor and farmers rights, anti-racist and cultural activism have contributed to my understandings of art as a powerful dimension of organizing. Humans are story-driven. We make choices according to how we understand the world to be. Art speaks directly to those deep inner spaces where the stories are stored. I use art to support people’s ability to believe in possibilities that go beyond the boundaries that are acceptable to the rulers. This image illustrates the relationship among creating alternatives, aligning with nature and opposing the forces of oppression and destruction.”

It started last Thursday at UC Berkeley, where I was fortunate enough to catch Professor Ibram X. Kendi discuss his new book How to Be an Antiracist, a powerful excursion into the deepest wounds of this nation’s soul. Among so many deeply resonating points about the historical and institutional injustices that keep holding this nation back from healing and building a society and environment where all can coexist and thrive, the key point I took away from Dr. Kendi’s talk and the following discussion was that in order to uproot racism — and thus the very idea of supremacy that has not only ravaged communities across the country and the world but the very biosphere we depend on to live — each of us must continuously hold up a mirror to examine our own internalized biases in order to unlearn them.

On Monday, when I joined hundreds of my fellow humans at the Close The Camps march in San Francisco , I thought to myself how apropos it was to be marching against our own government’s officially sanctioned barbarism on the heels of such a deep examination of ancient roots of oppression within us and in the run-up to support a new generation’s cry to unshackle itself from the extractive system we’ve adapted to.

Close The Camps march, San Francisco, 9/16/19. Photo by Sven Eberlein

As someone who has been wondering for a long time why we humans would trash our own and only home, it has become increasingly clear that the only way to remedy what is destroying the planet’s living systems is to get to the root of what got us into this extractive mindset in the first place: the brutal engines of colonialism that used the vicious divide-and-conquer mechanisms of racism to dehumanize whole swaths of populations in order to profit a “chosen” minority. 

Aside from this mindset being just plain immoral and sinister, it has also led us to a place where not only the discarded and forgotten victims bear the cruel consequences of the oppression, but the oppressor himself is now threatened with extinction, due to a finite planet with finite resources and very fragile and interconnected biospheric systems that can only take so much abuse and overexertion before they collapse. 

As Naomi Klein points out in an interview about her latest book “ON Fire“, white supremacy emerged not just because people felt like thinking up ideas that were going to get a lot of people killed but because it was useful to protect barbaric but highly profitable actions.

The age of scientific racism begins alongside the transatlantic slave trade, it is a rationale for that brutality. If we are going to respond to climate change by fortressing our borders, then of course the theories that would justify that, that create these hierarchies of humanity, will come surging back. There have been signs of that for years, but it is getting harder to deny because you have killers who are screaming it from the rooftops.

– Naomi Klein
Close The Camps march, San Francisco, 9/16/19. Photo by Sven Eberlein

Then last night, I was invited to an event by Voice of Witness, an amazing nonprofit organization with the vision to bring the crucial oral histories of marginalized communities to audiences nationwide. The stories told by several narrators ranged from grappling with the aftermath of Hurricane Maria to the dark cruelty of being in the U.S. prison system to the unspeakable hardships and injustices experienced by as a gay refugee from Honduras. They were so powerful because we could feel in our own hearts how deeply affected these people had been by their tribulations. It elicited the kind of empathy needed to see yourself in your fellow human being’s struggle, open your heart, and become activated to become an ally in breaking down the system of division and oppression our collective consciousness has been holding us prisoners in for too long.

So this is the mindset with which I’ll be joining millions of youth around the world who will be taking to the streets tomorrow to demand urgent action on the most existential threat humanity as a whole has ever faced. In full awareness that the imbalance and destruction of our natural systems is not a new and out of the blue phenomenon, but the culmination of all the oppression and destruction that so many frontline communities across the world have had to experience for centuries at the hands of a colonial raison d’être that seeks to subdue and dominate nature in the name of short-term power and profit.

Artwork by David Solnit. From Climate Strike Arts Kit

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Sven Eberlein

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