Critique: March Fo(u)rth Divestment Day of Action

I am going to start sharing more of my critical thoughts about the modern environmental movement on this blog. It will continue to be a hub of resources and updates for environmental activists, but I will also be branching into critiques of the modern environmental movement. If a post is tagged “critique,” then you know what it will be about.

Here’s the framing for my thoughts: the climate movement is unlike any movement before. We’re not fighting for one age, gender, ethnicity, culture, or country. We are fighting for every single person, animal, and plant on this planet and all future generations. Therefore our movement must be inclusive and massive. Of course, not everyone should be expected to be activists, devoting time and energy to organizing. This is why those involved with the movement today must more provide opportunities for others to get involved. We have not reached the stage where we have an inclusive environmental movement. My goal is to figure out how we get there.

Today, students around the world are marching fourth on March 4th for a divestment day of action. This should be one of the largest showings of communication and coordination among the recent divestment movement. As you probably have gathered from my blog, I am nothing but supportive of the divestment movement, and I truly believe that it has changed the fate of the larger climate movement.

The slogan for the day of action is “Divestment is a tactic, justice is our goal.” While we are fighting for justice, this slogan–in my  view–misrepresents the ideals of the divestment and larger climate movement. Here’s why:

1) The slogan belittles divestment. Yes, divestment is a tactic within the larger climate movement. It is neither a beginning nor an end, and students are pivoting power off campus to fight other fossil fuel infrastructure. But people should not be so quick to short-change the historical momentum of divestment. The slogan to me portrays divestment as a blip. But it’s not. It’s revolutionary.

2) People get involved with environmentalism for many different reasons. Not everyone is fighting for justice. It is wrong to impose this goal on others. I wrote a 15 page paper on this topic during my Sophomore year in high school as I explored how global warming could become the central issue of my generation. I learned that some people get involved because they want their children to have a better future. Some get involved to save their homes, help people in other parts of the world, protect local industries, conserve forests…the reasons are varied and broad. Environmentalists and activists should not impose a goal. We’re all trying to mitigate climate change. But below that level of analysis, it’s too individual to define.

3) It is naive for environmentalists to say that “justice is our goal.” Injustice has always and will always exist. Even the most moral movement will never achieve justice as a holistic goal. But we are fighting for climate justice. It is unfair for minority populations, developing economies, or future generations to be most impacted by climate change when they did little or nothing to cause it. We can fight for climate justice. It is important to distinguish.

These are my thoughts for today. More soon!

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