The Right Reverend William Barber
has revived Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Poor People's Campaign. He
has reminded us that the triple evils of an age were racism,
militarism, and poverty. But he has advanced the struggle for social
and economic justice by including ecological devastation and the
intersection between religion and morality.
King indicated that one of the evils could not exist without another.
Racism, militarism, and poverty were intertwined. Moving it
forward, capitalism, militarism, and racism have been responsible for
much of the ecological devastation we have experienced.
Barber has made it plain. His namesake son (William Barber III) has
been involved in the environmental movement and took his dad to
Alaska, where the melting of the glaciers was obvious. "We
could see where they were five years ago, and where they are today.
We are losing our glaciers". The young Dr. Barber told his dad
that we might see seismic changes in as few as twenty years.
Melting glaciers in Alaska. Melting
glaciers in Antarctica. Government reports that were delayed because
of the government shutdown, but a final report from the National
Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration (noaa.gov) says that 2018 was
one of the four hottest years on record for the globe. The heat
makes a difference. It accelerates storms and hurricanes. It places
low-lying areas at risk. And trivially (but some of us live this)
the fluctuations between cold and heat affect the quality of roads.
Republicans are oblivious to the challenges of climate change. That
man who occupies the People's House at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue spent
82 minutes bloviating without mentioning climate change or global
warming (or the 400th year since enslaved people crossed these
wretched borders), but even as he ignored a pressing issue, there
were official acknowledgments of the ways that global warming has
shifted our climate realities. In the name of party loyalty, some
Republicans are willing to imperil our planet.
aren't much better. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has been focused on
climate change and has assembled a congressional panel to deal with
the matter. The New Green Deal says that the Speaker's focus is
insufficient, and first-year legislator Alexandria Ocasia-Cortez
(D-NY) has promoted a "Green New Deal" that addresses
comprehensive ways to deal with social, economic, and environmental
Pelosi and Congresswoman AOC both care about the ways our planet is
melting, although they approach legislative fixes in different ways.
Pelosi would take a deep dive in environmental issues. AOC would
connect environmental devastation to wages, education, and quality of
life. The two dynamos are on the same page, but their approach is
different. Pelosi is the more skilled leader and negotiator and will
find her position enhanced if she can use the AOC agenda to advance
bottom line, though, is that our planet is melting. We hear a "State
of Disunion" address that bloviated on for 82 minutes and
mentioned climate change not once. In the days after the pathetic
campaign speech masquerading as a State of the Union address, we saw
Democrats lift the challenges of climate change, and Republicans to
ignore those challenges. And our world melts on.
world is melting. Glaciers are disappearing. Oceans are rising.
Lowlands (mostly populated by low income and Black people) are
disappearing. And, before Democrats took power in this term, few
other than Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the New Green Deal have been able
to address matters of climate change and, in the words of the New
Poor People's Campaign, "ecological devastation."
does ecological devastation shape issues of social and economic
justice? When folks choose to disrespect the environment, they
mainly want to disrespect those who are most vulnerable –
people who are at the periphery of the economy, those who have
garbage dumps and toxic waste placed near their homes. There was a
focus on environmental justice with the Environmental Protection
Agency before this administration decided that there was no need to
protect the environment. And there has been a stunning silence among
civil rights organizations who don't' think that the melting of our
plant is an essential issue.
planet is melting. A few legislators care. What about the rest of
us? Do we understand that, in the words of Rev. William Barber, that
without a healthy planet, we have no platform to fight for social and
economic justice, for our civil rights?