OPINION: Mutual aid is the future of environmentalism

Drawing of people sitting on a plant
(Laura Jaramillo • The Student Life)

The science is clear and widely accepted: in order to prevent catastrophic climate change, we must overhaul our energy systems and quickly curb our use of fossil fuels.

Unfortunately, climate change is here to stay, and so is the greed and negligence of fossil fuel corporations.

In an ideal world, governments would resist the intense influence of fossil fuel lobbyists and other special interests and instead take action to transform our energy systems and drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions. However, as systemic change continues to stall and environmental destruction continues, it’s vital that we support mutual aid and other community efforts to help reduce the suffering that climate change will bring to the most vulnerable.

The problem is not a lack of understanding of what needs to be done — governments around the world have demonstrated their comprehension of the dangers of climate change. The most notable example is the Paris Agreement, an international treaty signed by 192 countries that recognizes the need to keep the warming of our climate well below two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

While this agreement appears promising and has been followed by successful emissions reductions in some countries and sectors, the majority of countries are failing to reach the targets necessary to prevent two degrees of warming. No legal penalties are enacted if countries fail to hit emission targets, meaning the agreement does little to compel nations to take action.

Here in the United States, the prospect of a complete overhaul of our energy systems is similarly dim. President Joe Biden’s election to the presidency in 2020 pleased many environmentalists, as outgoing President Donald Trump infamously tore apart any key environmental policies he could. Since Biden’s inauguration, many environmental protections have been reinstated, but the intensity of change needed is nowhere close to being met.

The United States’ best hope of a total energy transformation presents itself as part of Biden’s Build Back Better plan, an infrastructure bill that would be passed through the reconciliation process. This bill aims to cut greenhouse gas emissions by over a gigaton by 2030, investing over $500 billion into clean energy in what would be the largest climate investment in American history.

If this climate legislation were to be enacted, it would be a significant step toward preventing global climate catastrophe. Unfortunately, at time of writing, politically moderate members of the Democratic Party have likely doomed the passage of much of the climate provisions in the latest form of the infrastructure bill. Specifically, Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Sen. Krysten Sinema of Arizona have publicly opposed large parts of Biden’s plan, including major climate legislation.

This isn’t to say that there is zero hope for a major energy transformation nationally or globally. As the effects of climate change become increasingly visible, governments across the world will be forced to take action. Nevertheless, we clearly cannot rely on global powers to be proactive on the issue of climate, seeing as catastrophe has already begun to take hold. This is where we must turn to mutual aid as a remedy for what is sure to come.

One arena in which mutual aid will be vital is food insecurity. As the climate continues to warm, the already prevalent issue of food insecurity will only become more widespread, threatening the livelihoods of communities across the world. By supporting food banks, especially when they provide to developing nations, we can reduce the global threat to food security due to the changing climate.

Here in Los Angeles County, the effects of climate change are already exceptionally visible in the form of extreme weather and increasingly widespread wildfires. Low-income communities are most vulnerable to having property destroyed by these fires despite being the least capable of sustaining such losses financially. Especially when we consider the lack of federal aid provided, these communities will be in great need of financial support as climate change worsens, which mutual aid can provide. By supporting organizations like Mutual Aid Network LA, which helps to publicize local mutual aid funds via social media and has distributed over half a million dollars in donations to local communities, we can help ease the pain that will inevitably come as environmental degradation continues.

The state of the climate crisis is undoubtedly dim, but mutual aid and other forms of community work help empower us to support each other and sustain our communities as climate catastrophe continues to wrack our planet.

Nicholas Black PO ’24 is from Rochester, New York. He thinks Southern California is already hot enough as it stands.

Facebook Comments