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Why the Environmental Justice Movement Inspires Me

This is an ode to inspiration. Inspiration for a better world and safer planet, where justice prevails and everything is green. We need inspiration as much as we need action right now. We know that climate change is scary. It’s a wicked problem. We know that we are tired and we are hurt. You are not alone if you feel this way, especially in Covid-19 times. 

The fossil fuel executives, plastic tycoons, and world leaders have put us in a precarious situation. I am never more angry than when I think about them. The human-caused climate change we are experiencing now is up there with the geological events that killed off the dinosaurs. Yes, I am scared. But I am also inspired, I am energized, and I am hungry for change.

We have solutions available now to change the world. We can have a 90% carbon-neutral energy grid by 2035. We can. We absolutely, 100% know exactly how to stop contributing to climate change. With the technology we have now, we can be almost all the way to a renewable energy world. It’s real. Take a moment with me and dream of a world where fenceline communities are no longer plagued with smokestacks and toxic waste. Take a moment with me and dream of a world where the sky is windmills instead of wildfires. 

Let me just say, we have kelp. My awe and wonder lately is found in algae. Inspiration is bountiful.

I hope to live in a Rachel Carson moment where the bird songs return in full force after we solve the problem that is climate change. I want to see a whale or a giraffe in the wild before they are extinct. 

Like many others in 2021, I live with eco-anxiety. My heart aches over the losses we will incur from Sixth Mass Extinction. It is hard to watch the news and see politicians procrastinate and lie every single day. The anger of Greta Thunberg at the U.N. is a constant. It sits in the back of my brain. But I am not a “doomer.” (I can’t name a single activist that is a doomer.)

Why are we not doomers? Because of the movement. The young and the old joining together for one vision. The activists that are burnt out 24/7 but still center joy, hope, and love. I want to be like them always. They inspire me to no end. Without the community of activists out there, who amplify silenced voices and hold the world accountable, I would not be so driven. What inspires me most is that in this movement, you are always learning. You are always able to be vulnerable and admit your mistakes. You welcome knowledge gaps because learning is like bread and water. The more you do the work, the more you want to do the work. 

I do not want to glorify burnout. It’s funny, how we burn out alongside the planet. I do not think it is okay. We give up parts of ourselves for the cause. It is a great protest to allow ourselves rest in a world of capitalism and profit margins. I invite the Black and Indigenous activists reading this to take the night off. 

We should all learn to rest, and not by engaging in what capitalism says is rest. Not through consumption, not through self-destruction. We must rest by refueling through our roots and our communities. I am inspired by the community of activists that order one another dinner, that fight for each other’s peace of mind in the comment sections, who share mutual funds to no end. That is as much the work as spending a night in jail for protest or signing a petition.

Never be apathetic. Never give up. How can you stop believing in a world that gives us the Yellow Finch tree sitters, who for 932 days blockaded the Mountain Valley Pipeline? How can you be apathetic to our future when there are islanders who stand tall against oil tankers despite rising sea levels? How can you give in when there is still no justice for Breonna Taylor? We forget that it is all the same struggle. It is in us to uplift those who do the work, even on days where we cannot do the work ourselves. 

Humans endure because we have no choice. But let’s remember that we do have a choice in this world of climate change and it’s a good one. We can all wake up in the morning and choose to use our voice for climate. We can walk into any space and think: There is always room for more justice. 

I am inspired to know those who will not take no for an answer. I am inspired by the human spirit. We are in a geological epoch called the Anthropocene, which translates to “human” (anthro) and “new” (cene). It is the time for humans to determine the trajectory of the world, and it has only just begun. It is a new world. We can decide what the future holds. 

Stay inspired. If you need inspiration, read. I recommend starting with the Principles of Environmental Justice and this book list.

Sophia Chapin

George Mason University '21

Sophia Chapin is a senior Environmental Science major at George Mason University. You can find articles from her on climate change and eco-friendly living.
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