Written by Aviva Kardener
“When our communities are under attack, what do we do?
Stand Up. Fight Back.
When Frontline communities are under attack, what do we do?
Stand Up. Fight Back.”
You may have heard this chant before at one of many protests and rallies: for women’s rights; against the Dakota Access Pipeline and for Indigenous rights and autonomy; and against police brutality, throughout our country and the world in recent months. Protests in the Environmental Justice movement provide no exception to this trend.
The climate and environmental justice movement centers frontline communities, disproportionately communities of color, who are most affected by issues of environmental injustice. We as environmental advocates need to be accountable to these communities and use our own power, privilege, and connections to support their work toward justice. While it may appear as if problems of environmental injustice are caused singularly by a few decision-makers, “our overlapping struggles are not against one man. Our struggles are systemic and entrenched, collective but particular.” Collectively, we must stand in solidarity as allies—asking how we can help, loving and uplifting the voices of people whose experiences are often erased and ignored. Evidently, “you do not need to be the voice for the voiceless. Just pass the mic.” As allies, we must simply realize that the livelihoods and existence of frontline communities are entirely connected with our own. Take your own time and space to learn about our respective privilege and the oppression people experience every day.
Right now, climate change and environmental degradation most affect these frontline communities. If we do not fight to protect their human rights to life, clean water, healthy, fresh food, safe and secure jobs, and more, eventually we will find ourselves in the same position with no one left to fight for us. We are reminded of Martin Niemöller’s poem about his experience during the Holocaust…
“Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”