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Indigenous, racial justice, and climate justice advocates are risking arrest outside the White House this week to try and bring this sense of urgency to President Biden. (Photo: Laura Beth Pelner, MVMT Catalyst)

President Biden, We Can Wait No Longer for Climate Justice

President Biden may feel he has time to negotiate, but our people and planet have no time to waste.

We live in very different places—Bemidji, Minnesota, at the headwaters of the Mississippi, and Brooklyn, New York, on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean—but our homes have never been more connected.

Police violence has rocked our communities, while uprisings for racial justice and Black liberation have brought them together. The Covid-19 pandemic has struck hardest at the poorest and most vulnerable in our neighborhoods, the chronic diseases of inequality and racism compounded by this novel virus. Climate change fueled heat waves now engulf us both, scorching the streets of New York and breaking records across Minnesota.

Climate change fueled heat waves now engulf us both, scorching the streets of New York and breaking records across Minnesota.

We’d hoped that President Biden would seize the historic opportunity to address these interlocking crises of racism, inequality, and the climate emergency. He promised us that he’d right past wrongs, respect Indigenous rights, and take bold action to free us from fossil fuels. He said that justice and climate and jobs would be at the heart of his response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

We’re now nearly 6 months into Biden’s presidency and many of these promises seem broken.

The bipartisan compromise that the President announced with a group of all-white Republicans outside the White House on Thursday does little to address the burning crises facing our communities. As New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted: "The diversity of this ‘bipartisan coalition’ pretty perfectly conveys which communities get centered and which get left behind when leaders prioritize bipartisan deal making over inclusive lawmaking."

Meanwhile, President Biden has failed to use his sweeping executive authority to protect our communities and climate.

Every day that Biden wastes negotiating with Republicans, 135 million Americans continue to breathe polluted air, putting their health and lives at risk. The crisis is worst for Black Americans, who are 3 times more likely to live in polluted areas, one reason why Black asthma rates continue to be 40% higher than amongst Whites.

Every day that Biden waits for Senator Joe Manchin’s approval, Indigenous peoples continue to see their treaty rights violated by foreign corporations trying to build massive fossil fuel pipelines through their land. Biden took the easy step of restoring President Obama’s ban on the Keystone XL pipeline, but he’s refused to stop its evil twin, the Line 3 pipeline that threatens Indigenous lands in so-called Minnesota. Even worse, Biden’s Department of Justice announced on Thursday that it would defend the Trump-era pipeline against lawsuits brought by communities along the route. Water protectors were correct when they called the decision a "horrible and unconscionable" betrayal.

Indigenous, racial justice, and climate justice advocates are risking arrest outside the White House this week to try and bring this sense of urgency to President Biden.

Every day Biden waits to act, this betrayal is repeated: in cities where our children continue to breathe polluted air, in towns where families are poisoned by chemical and fossil fuel waste, on reservations where Native Americans still lack access to water and electricity, and in our atmosphere, where the parts per million of carbon dioxide rapidly tick upwards. President Biden may feel he has time to negotiate, but our people and planet have no time to waste.

Indigenous, racial justice, and climate justice advocates are risking arrest outside the White House this week to try and bring this sense of urgency to President Biden. We’ve come from across the country to remind the President of his promises and ask him to re-commit to the vision of racial, economic, and climate justice that will allow all of us to thrive. We’ve come to demand he stand with people, not polluters.

We’ve come because we can’t wait. 


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

Tom Goldtooth

Tom Goldtooth is executive director of the Indigenous Environmental Network.

Maurice Mitchell

Maurice Mitchell

Maurice Mitchell is National Director of the Working Families Party and a leader in the Movement for Black Lives. 

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