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The Intersection

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At a recent Extinction Rebellion demonstration, climate change activists gathered along a beach in Cornwall, England, holding up signs that read: “Black Lives Matter.” 

“There is no climate justice without racial justice,” says 15-year-old Alexandria Villaseñor, who co-founded the U.S. Youth Climate Strike. Jamie Margolin, a founder and co-executive director of Zero Hour (and past WtW Guest Judge), agrees: “Climate justice is closely tied to other systems of oppression. It’s not a matter of choosing between, say, Black Lives Matter or Climate Justice. Climate Justice is Black Lives Matter: 69% of coal plants are built in POC communities; 20 thousand people die from air pollution alone each year in the United States, and the majority of those people are people of color (that’s not a coincidence.)”

All over the world, climate activists are taking to the streets (and beaches) in alliance with the BLM movement. After the killing of George Floyd, for example, Sam Grant and his staff could be found cooking for hungry protesters in Minneapolis and offering first aid supplies to those injured. Grant is neither a cook, nor a medic. He’s an educator and organizer, and now serves as the executive director of Minnesota’s affiliate, a branch of the international organization addressing the climate crisis.

The climate crisis might seem distant from the real and present dangers of the novel coronavirus and police brutality, but Grant believes they are all connected. Structural inequities put people of color at greater risk for all three. “I believe part of our challenge,” Grant says, “is helping people see that the impacts of climate change are primary.” The issues must be looked at in tandem. “Police violence is an aspect of a broader pattern of structural violence, which the climate crisis is a manifestation of,” he said. “Healing structural violence is actually in the best interest of all human beings.”

Dear writers, we have a challenge for you: Write a poem (of 350 words or fewer) that explores a specific example of the intersection of climate change and social justice from your city, country or world region. 

As the poet Sarah Howe puts it, “Poetry and science both seek to peer through to the underlying reality of things, pushing at the borders of imagination.” How can you use both poetry and science as a doorway to truth?

For inspiration, check out these stunning works by Community Ambassadors: "Message for the Canadian Government," "Non-reflective," and "Milwaukee."