Climate change—and the political attempts to address the challenges it poses—intersects with virtually all traditional struggles for equality and justice. It is not only about the parts-per-million greenhouse pollution in the atmosphere, or how many gigawatts of solar power we can produce, but the impacts it poses in the daily lives of those we love here at home.
Rising temperatures and utility prices, increasingly dangerous storms and flooding, the availability of healthy food. These are all heavily influenced by an increasingly violent climate. All of these impact those with the least the most.
Income inequality, historical patterns of development and displacement, racism, housing rights… Such realities have long been felt in the day-to-day lives of San Antonians. But it is climate change that amplifies the stakes involved.
In San Antonio, the most economically and racially segregated large city in the nation, these impacts are experienced in years off our lives, as much as 20 years difference between higher end Zip Codes on the north and less affluent residents to the south.
The Climate Action & Adaptation Plan that the city and community will deliver can give agency to innovative strategies that address intersecting impacts simultaneously. Strategies that come from the community speak to the practicalities of life of San Antonians and are paramount to the success of not only reducing the effects of climate change but also dismantling the systemic structures that support it.
This is an opportunity to have solutions that reflect multiple priorities and that can lead to climate positive changes but also to an elevation of the quality of life in our city. We cannot afford to exclude any possibilities from the spectrum of change. We cannot continue to marginalize perspectives and miss out on a range of ideas and solutions to choose from.
There are many solutions that may be considered disruptive to the status quo and we must ask ourselves if the solutions presented so far are not working and bringing us the metrics that we need, are they worth supporting? Then we must ask of those who believe in that, why, and to what aim? Does this further the idea of climate justice? Or social justice? Does it serve all or a narrow interest? We can qualify and quantify those answers for integrity. The next step is going to meet much resistance.
Accountability is key. This plan must have strong measures of accountability, we must have these as a commitment that this plan will not be dismissed. Requirements and consequences show a responsibility and a seriousness that is missing from the hundreds of presently unenforced ordinances.
We must be bold and creative; we must be unafraid to be critical. We must continue to ask and demand. Rarely is there justice that can be delegated from top down. The ideas are limitless – we can use them for our mutual benefit and we can proceed as if Community Justice is a dire, impending task.
Let’s merge our value system with our actions and shift to a more safe, just community, one that lends itself to regional and global sustainability. To sustain ourselves implies operating at a minimum level, in our current state it’s a low bar, let’s reach for a San Antonio that has yet to exist, a place where the basic requirements of life are in place for everyone and then aim higher. A San Antonio Climate Action Plan that includes social justice is a just one small step on that path.
No one is exempt from our degraded climate, air, and water quality. Acknowledging social costs and then working with that frame can and should encompass the economic externalities that are passed on as standard practice.