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Talk about climate change must turn into action and justice

Over the summer, a lot of people talked to me about climate change instead of the other way around. They talked about the drying up of the Great Salt Lake, Supreme Court justices deflating the EPA’s regulatory powers, whether climate migration will ruin their real estate investments, their 70-year-old friend who “believes” now and Senator Joe Manchin as climate policy enemy number 1 has become the climate saviour.

All of this means one thing to me: the climate crisis is now public sentiment. Finally, more Americans who were immune to early and worst climate impacts formed what Lauren Berlant calls an “intimate audience” around the climate crisis. People feel something, they are curious, they “feel that issues of survival are at stake” and that listening and telling are ways “to get out of the impasse and the struggle of the present”. They speak.

I have been writing and teaching environmental issues for over 10 years. My grumpy tendency has been to roll my eyes on the phone with these friends and family. “Where have you been?! So many people have been talking about this for so long,” I say to myself. But this exasperated response misses the point: it’s time to listen, to fuel the conversation, to galvanize this intimate audience that feels the stakes of the climate crisis and wants to break the deadlock.

Voting definitely matters. As Manchin and Senator Kyrsten Sinema, his fellow Democratic filibuster, have taught us, party affiliation does not dictate a politician’s votes. When we choose party candidates at the time of the vote, we need to know the priorities of our public servants and whether they will stick to them. With inflation and recession rightly looming in the polls as the top concerns of Americans, the climate crisis is likely to fade from minds in November when 100-degree temperatures, hurricanes and possibly wildfires, will subside.

Many Republicans and some Democrats will sideline climate action in favor of economic stabilization and development. It is a false choice. As economists and entrepreneurs have explained, “decarbonizing” the economy – that is, transitioning to renewable energy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions in other ways – generates jobs and drives innovation while reducing long-term disaster damage to the economy. We need to elect those who see the synergies. For example, the Cut Inflation Act of 2022, signed by President Joe Biden, creates jobs and reduces pollution that harms health and therefore the economy. He has real issues such as the opening of oil and gas leases in the Gulf and the Arctic where the climate impacts are already devastating, but it shows that we and our representatives can vote with our money and our lives in mind. climate action.

All of the climate talk this summer should also translate into action beyond voting. No action is a silver bullet and no action is right for all lives, but there is a menu to choose from. Some will start community conversations that identify local impacts and design community-led adaptation and mitigation measures that benefit everyone. Some will march past state capitals as lawmakers debate bills that promote the fossil fuel industry and punish those that don’t. Some will turn to nonviolent civil disobedience, inspired by the recent pipeline blockages of indigenous land and water protectors and the history of black activists forcing change through sit-ins. Some will take advice from climate writer and podcaster Mary Annaïse Heglar to “do what you’re good at and do your best” for the planet.

All of this rhetoric needs to be turned into action, whether at the ballot box or in the pipeline. But, anyway, he must lean towards justice. It must undo the economic, political and social forces that put frontline populations, primarily the elderly, people with disabilities and black and brown residents, at greatest risk of climate impacts and create alternatives that regenerate communities and ecosystems.

As the shock of the climate crisis hits more people, more of us should come together with neighbors and other affinity groups to learn more and imagine better. Let’s stand up to NIMBYism and advocate for local and global climate justice.

Houser is a professor of English at the University of Texas and writes on environment and culture.

Mary Cashion

The author Mary Cashion