Dear Climate Movement:
I love y’all, but I need you to quit acting like climate change is the FIRST existential crisis.
For 400 years and counting, America itself has been an existential threat for Black people. (Also, I’m not sorry).
This game of what I call “existential exceptionalism” is a losing one. It is not only inaccurate, short-sighted, and arrogant — it’s dangerous. And for me, as a Black woman from the south, it’s downright insulting.
Imagine living under a calculated, meticulous system dedicated to and dependent on your oppression. Now imagine your children growing up under that system. How’s that for existential?
You don’t fight something like that because you think you will win. You fight it because you have to. What, now, do you have to lose? What else can you be but brave?
So, the next time you want to “educate” communities of color about climate change, remember that they have even more to teach you about building movements, about courage, about survival.
Mary Annaïse Heglar’s full essay can be found at “Climate Change Ain’t the First Existential Threat“.
Mary Annaïse Heglar is Publications Director at the Natural Resources Defense Council. She provided permission to Discard Studies to republish her recent tweet thread on climate change and existential crisis.
- Danowski, Déborah, and Eduardo Viveiros de Castro. (2017). The Ends of the World. Polity Press.
- Davis, Heather, and Zoe Todd. (2017). On the Importance of a Date, or Decolonizing the Anthropocene. ACME: An International E-Journal for Critical Geographies 16(4).
- Heglar, Mary Annaïse. (2019). Climate Change Ain’t the First Existential Threat. Medium, February 18.
- Mavhunga, Clapperton Chakanetsa. (2017). Whose? A Poem. Anthropocene Campus Website: The Technosphere Issue.
- Murphy, Michelle. (2018). Against Population, Towards Alterlife. in Clarke, A. E., & Haraway, D. J. (Eds.). Making kin not population. Prickly Paradigm Press.
- Todorov, Tzvetan. (2017). Facing The Extreme: Moral Life in the Concentration Camps. Henry Holt and Company.
- Whyte, Kyle Powys. (2016). “Is it colonial déjà vu? Indigenous peoples and climate injustice.” In Humanities for the Environment, Routledge: 102-119.
- Whyte, Kyle. Powys (2017) Our Ancestors’ Dystopia Now: Indigenous Conservation and the Anthropocene. Routledge Companion to the Environmental Humanities. Ed. Ursula Heise, Jon Christense, and Michelle Niemann.
- Whyte, Kyle Powys. (2018). Indigenous science (fiction) for the Anthropocene: Ancestral dystopias and fantasies of climate change crises. Environment and Planning E: Nature and Space 1(1-2): 224-242.