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There’s no place like home

A chorus of environmental injustice sings as a string of planetary threats ring

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there's no place like home

Editor’s Note: It is an undeniable truth that the spiraling thoughts about the current environmental crisis entangling our planet have become an unwelcome bedfellow — one I would so love to get rid of. Dearest tree-huggers, climate change opposers, and unaware residents of planet Earth, this column, which broadly encompasses environmental topics, searches for a way to create a deeper understanding of this big pile of rocks and grass that we call home.

Amidst an abundance of compost bins, signs protesting plastic straws, and overt climate change activism, there are days that I revel in a false sense of security. I live in an environmentally progressive state in a highly developed country that exudes conflicting judgment when perceiving environmental issues.   

It is common and convenient to forget that the climate crisis in less developed regions of the world is an issue of survival, requiring more than simply forgoing plastic or rallying the masses. The effects of climate change on a domestic scale are inherently, unequally suffered. 

The apparent distinction in this green club that I allude to can be observed in the fact that individuals almost immediately recognize the powerful activism of 16-year-old Greta Thunberg but the public does not echo a similar response to the name Ridhima Pandey

Living in the holy city, Haridwar, India, Pandey noticed the myriad of pollution in the Ganges and was saddened in 2011 after Uttarakhand, a northern state in India, was devastated by large floods. She has since petitioned India’s National Green Tribunal for not taking the necessary precautions against climate issues and joined Thunberg and other young protesters at the U.N.’s Convention on the Rights of the Child, all at the age of 11. 

While it is important that genuine attribution is given to the work of many climate activists, it is widely apparent that it is not as natural for society to focus on climate activism of people of color, especially from countries that are less developed.

Furthermore, it is flagrantly ironic that the regions targeted most dramatically by environmental hazards and contributing minimally to the emissions that influence climate change are less frequently the subject of environmental activism stories.

“The effects of climate change have led to a growing sense of outrage in developing nations, many of which have contributed little to the pollution that is linked to rising temperatures and sea levels but will suffer the most from the consequences,” as stated in a New York Times article

Bangladesh produces just 0.3% of the emissions related to climate change yet has already experienced rising sea levels. They have made headlines for the possibility of sinkage in future years. As of right now, it is predicted that in just 30 years, 18 million Bangladeshis will be displaced, evacuating land of which 17% could be flooded.

Upon reading about this forecasted global catastrophe, I admit that I was not very familiar with the specifics about Bangladesh, Jakarta, or Tuvalu, an island nation already sinking in the South Pacific. 

As a climate activist, there should always be a greater focus on the intersecting conflicts that elevate the severity of environmental detriments, affecting regions disproportionately. 

The gravity of the situation poses a concern for global and domestic coverage of environmental issues in a way that commands equality. This means that rather than focusing so much of our social activism on blanketed statements and media posts, we should concentrate on specific issues like the sunken cities and the reign of environmental injustice. 

From a global scale, developing nations bear the weight of environmental tragedies that they are unable to counter because of a host of reasons, including a lack of infrastructure or few preventative measures. Even through a domestic lens, the presence of inequality persists. 

Minority groups and individuals of lower socioeconomic standing in the United States are victims of this disparate system. This is locally evident in Washington state, as the inequality is depicted by an interactive mapping tool released by the Washington State Department of Health. 

“These interactive maps offer concrete evidence of the gap between wealthier and whiter census tracts and ones with more people of color, immigrants and poor or working-class households, which are often located nearer to industrial zones, polluted waterways, high-traffic roads and neglected utility infrastructure,” an article published in The Seattle Times stated.  

With the pendulum shifting in the direction of environmental inequality, inequitable activism continues on. While there is no clear tactical solution to reverse the sweeping fate of environmental injustice, a viable action defenders of the planet should take is to maintain global awareness and support environmental news coverage that trails beyond traditional lines into regions of the country and the world where the battle is being fought independently.

Reach columnist Suhani Dalal at opinion@dailyuw.com. Twitter: @DalalSuhani 

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