It’s a story that’s becoming all-too familiar: this past weekend, a shooter, motivated by white supremacy, opened fire in a grocery store in Buffalo, NY, killing 13 people, 11 of whom were Black. The youngest of the victims, Roberta Drury, was 32—just two years older than me. Celestine Chaney was around my dad’s age; Geraldine Talley was close to my mom’s. You know the story: these ordinary people—parents and friends, caregivers and community members—were going about their business on a day like any other when the vicious sin of racism plowed its way into their lives and cut them short.
What, though, does this have to do with climate change?
Better put: what doesn’t this have to do with climate change?
In his manifesto the shooter described himself as an “eco-fascist,” echoing the manifestos of earlier mass shooters in Christchurch, New Zealand and El Paso, Texas who cited environmental motivations for their violence. As the world warms up and resources become more scarce, more and more people will be forced to flee their homes, especially—though not exclusively—people of color and people from the Global South. As the impacts of climate change increasingly encroach on people of more significant financial means in the Global North, whether in the form of wildfires, increased gas prices, rising sea levels, or pandemics, some will inevitably seek scapegoats to blame. Far too often, these scapegoats will be members of the very same communities of color who have born the least historical responsibility for climate change while bearing the brunt of its consequences.
The climate is changing. That’s not to say that there’s not still plenty we can do to mitigate the severity of climate change, but we must also consider how to choose love in a climate-changed world. Will we recognize this moment as an opportunity to deepen our commitment to hospitality, to widen the aperture of our heart over and against mounting scarcity, to resist being swept away in a fearful frenzy that leaves us grasping fruitlessly at resources that were never truly ours to begin with and scapegoating people of color and others on the margins? Love takes many faces, but one of the ways it looks in a climate-changing world is to advocate for policies that build the resilience of communities and protect those who are most financially dependent on a carbonized economy and vulnerable to climate impacts. These are the kinds of policies Catholics across the country have been seeking to promote as a part of the Encounter for Our Common Home Campaign.
For my part, I’m trying my best to choose love. Will you choose love with me?
Director of Youth and Young Adult Mobilization, Catholic Climate Covenant