Activist Explains Why Climate Change Movement’s ‘Whiteness’ Drove Her To Stop Saving The Earth

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The climate change movement’s supposed whiteness drove one young activist to bail on her fellow environmentalists as they try convincing skeptics who believe fears about climate change are exaggerated.

Organizing on behalf of the environment became depressing and soul-sucking to Karin Hermes, who argues that her fellow activists only used her when they needed a non-white person to preach about climate change. The only solution is to “walk away,” she wrote Thursday in a Vice editorial.

“Whenever I would question the whiteness of these spaces and how strategies didn’t take race into account, I would be met with uncomfortable silences,” Hermes wrote. “The last time, at a nationwide movement-building workshop last April, I was asked, ‘Well then, why are you even here?'”

She added: “After four years of helping organize direct actions, speeches, workshops, and countless video calls, I started hiding and declining requests. I was burned out.” (RELATED: Here Are The Scenes From DC’s Climate Protest)

Hermes cited examples of climate activists ignoring what she says are important issues.

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 09: U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) passes through the National Statuary Hall January 9, 2020 at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC. The House has passed the War Powers Resolution to limit President Trump’s military action against Iran before seeking approval from Congress. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Sometimes activists ask her why “whiteness, capitalism, and inequality” have to do with climate change, she noted.

Using so-called die-ins to highlight the urgency of climate change is offensive to black people, Hermes added.

“Anti-racism and anti-capitalism need to be made part of organizing,” she concluded. “If ‘Green’ policies fail to consider anti-racism and migrant rights, how is any person of colour supposed to feel voting for them or organizing in the same spaces?”

Activists and Democratic politicians are starting to come around to Hermes’s side of the discussion. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, for instance, sponsored the so-called Green New Deal in 2019 to draw a linkage between climate issues and racial issues.

The GND resolution called for “10-year national mobilizations” toward goals aimed at fighting global warming. The resolution also called for a variety of social justice and welfare state goals, such as a “family-sustaining wage, adequate family and medical leave, paid vacations and retirement security.”

Senate Democrats did not support of the GND in March when Republicans forced a vote.

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