While the COVID-19 pandemic has made transparent the undeniable systemic failures in the United States, it did not cause them. The system has never had the ability to care for people in the first place.
We cannot ignore the connection between the COVID-19 crisis and the climate crisis. The confluence of these two issues has, and will continue to, compound inequality and injustice. Now more than ever, we must continue our fight for equality in every iteration: access to healthcare without connections to employment, protection from eviction, access to clean water and air, access to food and safeguards from disaster-related unemployment. The Green New Deal will facilitate a just transition by putting people first, centering justice as a foundational principle.
The Green New Deal, brought to the fore by the Sunrise Movement and co-sponsors Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ed Markey, is a comprehensive plan that addresses the interwoven crises of climate catastrophe, economic inequality and systemic racism at the scale that science and justice demand. Before the COVID-19 crisis, the Green New Deal was positioned as an opportunity to dismantle and radically rebuild the inequitable systems and unjust hierarchies around us.
The Green New Deal, however, is not the endgame solution to the ongoing climate catastrophe. Climate change is, first and foremost, a byproduct of settler colonialism and the advent of global capitalism. Thus, the Red Deal, written by Indigenous leaders, must be considered and subsequently implemented alongside the Green New Deal. While a Green New Deal works to connect issues of economic and racial injustice to issues of climate, the Red Deal builds on those connections and explicitly ties Indigenous liberation to an anti-capitalist crusade to save the planet and preserve Indigenous sovereignty. The Red Deal holds anti-capitalism and decolonization as central pillars of the struggle towards justice and calls for decolonization, prison abolition, an end to border imperialism, land restoration, complete demilitarization and the introduction of a “care-taking economy.”
Wellesley, too, is complicit in the climate crisis. As of Feb. 2020, 2.7 percent of Wellesley’s endowment is directly invested in fossil fuel companies — a total of nearly $60 million. This kind of investment is equivalent to Wellesley digging its own oil well, pitching a flag adorned with the Wellesley crest atop of it and then selling the oil. We would not allow this to happen on our campus, so why would we allow Wellesley to do this in our sibs’ backyards and homelands?
Wellesley cannot claim itself to be “committed to being an institution in which each member thrives” while actively investing millions of dollars in fossil fuel companies that perpetuate environmental injustice and racism, thereby directly and indirectly inflicting harm on members of the College community. The science is clear: a future in which we carry on with our current levels of fossil fuel consumption will be catastrophic — and most of that burden will fall on low income communities and communities of color. As Wellesley moves forward and out of this crisis, we will continue to push for divestment from fossil fuel companies to ensure that our institutional investments do not jeopardize the lives of billions of people.
As students rushed to leave campus, Wellesley’s vast community network rallied to provide support in a way none of us have ever seen before. Organizing around mutual aid reminds us that at the end of the day, empathy impels us to take care of one another. At the same time, we are reminded that the reason we must undertake such Herculean efforts ourselves is because our social safety net is failing us and allowing millions of people to fall through the cracks. We should not have to resort to asking for donations from strangers to cover the cost of medication or the gas needed for the long drive to New Jersey or Nevada after being evicted from our Wellesley home. But America has failed us. Indigenous communities and communities of color, working class folks, college students, people with chronic illnesses and others have been left behind by the government for decades — and will continue to be as the insidious effects of this pandemic take hold in and devastate our most vulnerable communities. Unless, that is, we take this opportunity to dismantle and radically rebuild the inequitable systems and unjust hierarchies around us. This is a consequential moment of reckoning for our country — and now more than ever, it is time to implement the Green New Deal.
We hope that you will join us on Earth Day as we strike online and write to Wellesley College officials calling for divestment and carbon neutrality on campus — as well as a just transition, millions of green new jobs and a livable future for us all.
This article reflects the opinions of its authors on behalf of Renew x Sunrise Wellesley. Please reach out to them with any questions or concerns.