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"Climate Doomism" with Isaias Hernandez

 

Isaias Hernandez is an Environmental Educator and creator of QueerBrownVegan where he creates introductory forms of environmentalism through colorful graphics, illustrations, and videos. He seeks to provide a safe space for like-minded environmentalists to advance the discourse around the climate crisis. Today he speaks to us about the dangers of climate doomism, and how to fight against it.

This article was originally published on Isaias website, QueerBrownVegan.com.

At young ages, many Black, Indigenous, and People of Color are often taught to normalize pain, whether it’s social, racial, or environmental injustice. These injustices have influenced the understanding of BIPOC on how they can react in both external and internal situations. BIPOC often find themselves silencing their pain, continuing to exist in an extractive capitalist system designed to oppress marginalized communities. “Climate Doomism” is a popularized term that has risen on social media by predominantly media news outlets exclaiming that there is no hope left in the future for the planet. We can refer to climate doomism as the pathway to ecological destruction due to anthropogenic actions created by human society. However, climate doomism is often used as a scare tactic to disempower collectivized communities on their journey for environmental liberation. climate doomism is never specific in addressing the role of white supremacy and how it has contributed to global environmental injustice.

Origins of Climate Doomism

The same scientists who have done extensive research on the environment are the same ones that often fail to communicate the information in an accessible way to the communities most impacted. Researchers are heavily trained in various methodologies and analytics yet they don’t receive culturally extensive training to effectively translate the information to all communities. Environmental Sciences, which I majored in at the University of California, Berkeley, lacks diversity in its courses. I was first introduced to climate doomism when I was a freshman in college. At a holistic level, the research space in science has failed to meet diversity, especially in the climate, environment, and conservation field, with only 3% of Black scientists obtaining an environmental science degree and 10% of Latinx compared to 70% of White students. According to the EPA, people of color face the highest rates of environmental burdens, which leads to an understanding of the climate crisis through lived experience. Low-income BIPOC students who become researchers or scientists are often better at creating an accessible form for people to link climate, race, and class. When we can empower students of color, we can create a pathway for sustainable change– one that is rooted in reciprocity and resistance.

Who Gets To Write About Climate Doomism In The West?

The climate crisis has been a topic of discussion in many countries:  framed at the beginning as “global warming”, then  “climate change”, and now “the climate crisis” or even “climate chaos”. The West has played a huge role in silencing narratives from the countries that have been most exploited. Many countries in the Global North that are now witnessing an increase of natural disasters, whether through landslides, hurricanes, wildfires, tornadoes, or heavy storms, are recognizing that the infrastructure built will not sustain their bubbly livelihood. Interviews with these survivors often include remarks of them expecting this to happen in a developing country “but not here”. This shows how a lack of education and understanding of Earth systems has programmed individuals to believe that living in a developed country will automatically protect them. Still, their plea to governments to assist them has also failed. People displaced due to climate events develop “tierratrauma”: which is land-based trauma from living in environments that experience climate disasters.

Climate doomism articles are often written by White scientists that undoubtedly continue to fuel fear of the end of the world. We must interrogate these articles (and who they are centering) because it is a shame to see care for the environment increase when White people are being hurt but not when BIPOC are dying from similar disasters. What do these titles serve when they completely ignore the work that grassroots activists have done for years?. In reality, communities and institutions can both create change. However, grassroots efforts led by BIPOC  tend to create the most sustainable change for their communities. The massive guilt that is expressed by groups who have had th privilege to not worry about climate change is now turning into doom– which directly affects marginalized communities.

White Supremacy Upholds Climate Doomism

Human supremacy and climate doomism often work simultaneously in creating an illusion that our own existence is polluting the Earth. Human supremacy framing allows for the continued lack of accountability of many of the existing polluting industries like fossil fuel, petrochemical, and other polluting projects stemming from white supremacy Western media outlets often ignore the root causes of the ecological crisis and frame communities as the problem rather than corporations, multinational institutions, and giant billionaires. Human supremacy framing in climate doomism leads to divisions in movements. Harmful myths like overpopulation blame people for the ecological crisis and target low-income BIPOC. We need to recognize that climate doomism being framed as a human supremacy issue will lead to concepts like eco-fascism and eco-xenophobia continuing to rise. 

Research As Resource Acquisition and Displacement

In science, we have seen how research has been used to interrogate BIPOC and justify resource acquisition for economic growth for the Global North. This is environmental colonialism: Western countries situating themselves in the Global South to acquire and deplete natural resources from Indigenous communities. Native ecosystems have severely been altered due to colonial practices. This still applies today, where we see a massive amount of resources still being extracted, whether for minerals, water, and other natural resources, through the help of multinational institutions and governmental systems. To reframe these issues, we must apply an anti-colonial, anti-imperialist, and anti-racist lens to our environmental work.. It is time that we recognize that collectivized vulnerability allows us to hold space for each other during these movements.

Feeling Hopeful & Hopeless At The Same Time

The struggle for many marginalized groups has always existed and many of us carry that pain every day. I refuse to fall into climate doomism because resistance has always been needed to create a just and regenerative world. We need to remind ourselves that we must work within our communities to create sustainable change. We have to extend beyond the Global North and support those that experienced land-based trauma from natural disasters through donating, holding spaces online, or collaborating. Sustainably loving ourselves requires creating circular relationships with our community, land, and self. There are days I feel weak and strong at the same time, there are times when I am told I am not doing enough, and there are days I know I am impacting at least one person in my life with this work. The thing is, the society we live in today beats us down to think we are hopeless and powerless when in reality, we as beings hold much power to create unity amongst ourselves. We must reckon with our own toxic thinking and hold each other accountable so no one is left behind.