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EDITORIAL: Privileged activists should share platform

University President Robert L. Barchi’s Task Force on Carbon Neutrality and Climate Resistance held a town hall on Feb. 12 over in response to climate strikes and protests enveloping both the campus and country.

“An hour-long presentation and plenary discussion preceded a general body discussion. The discussion was held in small groups where attendees had the opportunity to share ideas directly with a member of the Task Force,” according to The Daily Targum.

While it is certainly a positive that protesting and general activism has led to a response — no matter how facetious — by the University and other governmental institutions worldwide, the makeup of those protests — and the environmental justice movement as a whole — leaves a lot to be desired, particularly pertaining to the representation of Indigenous peoples, people of color and other marginalized groups.

Indigenous people are impacted heavily by climate change. Westernized thought and philosophy regarding environmental threats tend to be future-oriented, speaking only about how future generations will face disastrous consequences. This is completely negligent of the truth: Climate change is harming people now. The issue? Many of those people are Indigenous, so the West does not take note.

“Indigenous peoples are among the first to face the direct consequences of climate change, due to their dependence upon, and close relationship with, the environment and its resources. Climate change exacerbates the difficulties already faced by Indigenous communities including political and economic marginalization, loss of land and resources, human rights violations, discrimination and unemployment,” according to the United Nations.

Indigenous people are clearly more experienced with the first-hand harms of climate change, so naturally they should be provided a platform to share their stories and ideas for combating the crisis. 

For example, Indigenous people in the Amazon Rainforest have dealt with the deforestation occurring there for years, and loggers have gone as far as to murder the native inhabitants of that land in acts of pure, barbaric colonialism.

This is no different from the colonialism — and all the horrors that came with it — that we read about and recoiled from in our history classes. It is amply evident that these marginalized people must be given a platform to speak out against the war being waged against their livelihoods.

But, there is a key distinction here. Some may say that Indigenous people need to be “given a voice” on the topic of climate change, but they already have that voice and are using it.

“Representatives of Indigenous peoples have in fact since 2008 been actively seeking a role in contributing to combating climate change through their participation in international environmental conferences, as well as by means of activism and political engagement at local and national levels,” according to the "Nature" journal.

Indigenous people have been using their voice for a long time — certainly prior to 2008, as well — but have not been provided the platform to reach a mass audience. 

That platform has been monopolized by rich, privileged activists who often feel none of the legitimate, current day impacts of environmental destruction. Hence why the narrative is often shaped around what is going to happen due to our irresponsible ways, rather than what is already occurring. 

That is not to imply that affluent climate activists are necessarily doing anything evil or with ill intent — they are still advocating for an important cause, after all. At the same time, they have a responsibility to use their privileged position as leaders of this important issue to give those most victimized by it a chance to not only share their voice, but to also lead the movement completely. 

There are countless young climate leaders that are from marginalized classes that have yet to be provided the platform they need and deserve. An example would be Marinel Ubaldo, who personally experienced the impacts of environmental injustice.

“Ubaldo experienced an environmental tragedy in the same year as Pandey. She was 16 years old when the Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines in 2013, which killed thousands and left many more homeless … ‘Some countries that have historically contributed most to climate change are still not fully feeling its effects. It’s important that they hear our stories, so they realize that it is affecting real people today,’ (Ubaldo) said,” according to the Targum.

Many Rutgers students, whether they are involved in environmental organizations or are actively protesting, have a platform to share their views on climate change. For those who do — share that platform with those who have the most to say on the issue, and use your privilege for the greater good.


The Daily Targum's editorials represent the views of the majority of the 152nd editorial board. Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.