Climate disaster is not a white, middle-class issue: on narratives and the need to build bridges

I’m somewhere in here. (source: 350MA Facebook page)

Last night, I attended a last-minute vigil protesting the Keystone XL pipeline, inspired by the State Department’s release of a report that green-lighted it.

It was heartening to be part of such a large crowd assembled at such short notice–there were over 200 people gathered in Harvard Square alone, and it was one of multiple events in the Boston area. It felt good to sing and chant and hold signs, to make our unequivocal “NO!” to climate destruction heard. It was heartening to feel the warmth of community, of spirited resistance, on a snowy day.

And yet. I looked around at all the white, middle-class, crunchy/hippie/folkie faces and thought, “We’re never going to succeed if we can only appeal to people like ourselves.”

We can only save the world if we can build bridges, if we can build a movement that resonates with people from all walks of life.  Climate disaster is not an issue that affects only canvas-bag-toting, organic-food-eating, voluntary-simplicity-loving liberals–we’re all in this together, and we need to face it together.

(A few caveats: I’m aware that Boston doesn’t represent the international climate movement, so what I’m saying may or may not apply on a larger scale. Also, I’m aware that it’s somewhat hypocritical of me to criticize the whiteness of local climate activism when the fat-positive events I’ve held have also been mostly white. I know it’s a problem, and I am working to change it.) Continue reading