Is climate change an intersectional issue or not?

Division is unnecessary

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(Lynus Erickson/Daily Collegian)

By Clara Goldberg, Collegian Contributor

Earlier this year, leading scientists of the United Nations Intergovernmental panel on Climate Change warned the world of an increasingly dire need for solutions to a cleaner Earth. Since then, climate change activism has been on the forefront of the political agenda. So on Sept. 20, I joined a couple hundred other students, faculty members, activists and children to strike from class to demand action on climate change.

I was proud to be there, standing with my University of Massachusetts community in solidarity for change. I believe that as a large, public university, UMass can impact the fight for climate change positively by leading the way in environmentally sustainable policies and bringing attention to the cause. Faculty and students have the resources to cover groundbreaking research that could pave the way for a healthier world.

I left the strike satisfied with what I stood up for that day. More, I felt empowered to take on climate change with all community members. The next day, however, I heard that at the event, one speaker had proposed that the Israeli Defense Forces were intentionally blocking clean water from Palestinians. A couple hours later, I came across a video of students at the rally chanting: “from the river to the sea, Palestine must be free.”

I was shocked. The strike for climate change action is an intersectional movement, meant to bring together all beliefs and all ideologies in order to save the environment. The strike is not the time or the place to be working on other agendas. To see students use the climate strike as a platform for pushing other movements is devastating, especially when the comments coming from these students ostracized and criticized many of the supporters there at the strike. Bringing up the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and moving the crowd to take a stance on that issue – at a strike where it is possible that the crowd does not hold one singular belief, no less –  harms one of the central ideas of the climate strike.

Several social movements of the past have failed because of their inability to turn their movement intersectional. One major issue with the suffragette movement in the early 1900s was that white women were excluding minorities, especially African American women, who were trying to fight the exact same cause. Even earlier this year, the Women’s March came under attack for anti-Semitic comments from one of their lead organizers, alienating donors and supporters of the movement. The Gay Rights Movement would not have been a success if only a specific section of the community had been fighting alone. Other movements, such as the March for Our Lives, could improve if it involved minorities more, and other ideologies in their fight for gun safety.

I do not have a “Pro-Israel” stance when it comes to the Palestinian-Israeli issue. I understand that certain communities, such as indigenous people, lower economic communities and Palestinians are more harshly affected by the impacts of climate change. That is probably why the issue was brought up in the first place. My own beliefs are quite complicated, but I do have a strong connection to the idea of Israel. Many people, like myself, hear this chant and believe it implies the abolition of the state of Israel. I acknowledge that many people chanting may not have recognized the severity of the words they were saying, but as a Jewish student I felt uncomfortable and frankly scared when I saw the video. Despite my support for climate action, I was afraid of sharing my opinions and my feelings.

The fight for a clean Earth is dire and overdue. This fight needs all ideologies to come together and work toward the same goal. Without intersectional support, this fight will do nothing to stop climate change.

As for the UMass community, I am disappointed about the use of this platform at the strike to promote a highly controversial issue, calling out and ostracizing members of the community who were there to support their fellow students in striking for change. In the future, I hope that organizers and marchers alike can put their differences aside and focus on the issue at hand, which is saving the environment.

Clara Goldberg is a Collegian contributor and can be reached at [email protected]