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Galvanizing Climate Justice: Role of Neoliberalism & Capitalism in Climate Crisis. 2021 National Public Health Week Blog

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Abstract

Climate crisis is one of the paramount global public health challenges, threatening our very existence. Climate change is a multiplier of all social and health inequities leading to grotesque climate injustices leading from inequitable climate exposure differentials. Like structural racism, the climate crisis is rooted in the processes of colonization, racial capitalism, and white supremacy. Colonization's impetus was and continues to be in the cases of settler-colonial nations like the United States, Canada, and New Zealand-exploitation and commodification of humans and the environment to enrich white Europeans. This extractive relationship took many violent forms from genocides, chattel slavery, famines, and a more sophisticated contemporary form: the unbridled capitalism -the driving force behind climate crisis and climate injustices. In public health, scholars and practitioners tend to shy away from calling out the root causes such as capitalism and neoliberalism for many public health injustices, including climate injustices, for various reasons ranging from a lack of critical intellectual prowess to career preservation. To galvanize climate justice in policies and programs, we must first be candid about the root causes. To be clear, it is an uncomfortable and difficult position to take given the uphill battle, since both political parties in the United States, other than occasional performative pretty words by Democrats, vehemently support the destructive ideologies of capitalism and neoliberalism. Public health community must move past our Martin Luther King's "White Moderate" tendencies and the ineffective individual-level solutions for climate justice. We need structural reforms, and we must unapologetically advocate for structural policy changes to see a galvanized climate justice movement.
2021 National Public Health Week - APHA Student Assembly Blog
Galvanizing Climate Justice: Role of Neoliberalism & Capitalism in Climate Crisis
by Ans Irfan
Climate crisis is one of the paramount global public health challenges, threatening our
very existence. Climate change is a multiplier of all social and health inequities leading to
grotesque climate injustices leading from inequitable climate exposure differentials. Like
structural racism, the climate crisis is rooted in the processes of colonization, racial
capitalism, and white supremacy. Colonization’s impetus was - and continues to be in the
cases of settler-colonial nations like the United States, Canada, and New Zealand –
exploitation and commodification of humans and the environment to enrich white
Europeans. This extractive relationship took many violent forms from genocides, chattel
slavery, famines, and a more sophisticated contemporary form: unbridled capitalism - the
driving force behind climate crisis and climate injustices.
In public health, scholars and practitioners tend to shy away from calling out the root
causes such as capitalism and neoliberalism for many public health injustices, including
climate injustices, for various reasons ranging from a lack of critical intellectual prowess
to career preservation. To galvanize climate justice in policies and programs, we must
first be candid about the root causes. To be clear, it is an uncomfortable and difficult
position to take given the uphill battle, since both political parties in the United States,
other than occasional performative pretty words by Democrats, vehemently support the
destructive ideologies of capitalism and neoliberalism. Public health community must
move past our Martin Luther King’s “White Moderate” tendencies and the ineffective
individual-level solutions for climate justice. We need structural reforms, and we must
unapologetically advocate for structural policy changes to see a galvanized climate justice
movement.
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