Thoughts on “The End of Nature,” Racism and Climate Change

Photo by Bill Oxford on Unsplash

A series of articles inspired by Bill McKibben’s “The End of Nature.” The real world consequences of humankind's permanent altering of the physical nature of the only home we will ever know in this life.

Historian and tyranny expert Timothy Snyder wrote of the real barrier behind are inaction on climate change — racism.

“The barrier is us,” Snyder writes. “We are perversely courting our own destruction.”

This is something I’ve spent the past year and a half reflecting on in my own life. As I’ve studied the writings of my mentors, Bill McKibben, Bob Massie, Jemar Tisby, Naomi Klein, Michael Mann, Kristin Kobes Du Mez, and Tony Judt. Inspired by both their writings and observations in my own life, my eyes have been opened to the evils of hyper-capitalism, racism and the real destruction of our planet.

“In our elections, our policies, and our stories, American racism creates barriers to the understanding of climate change and to the enactment of solutions,” Snyder notes at the beginning of his piece.

With an eye trained on the ever-present reality of tyranny in the post-Communist world of the 21st Century, Snyder echo’s the conclusions of these same voices. Offering not only the reality of our current situation, but also a means of how to solve it.

He goes on to give three key reasons behind this twisted worldview.

The first is voter suppression.

Organized around the Big Lie that Biden and the Democrats stole the election from Trump and the Republican Party, GOP-lead states are passing the most outrageous voter suppression laws since perhaps the pre-Civil Rights movement.

Voter suppression has been the tried and true tactic of the radical Right and their GOP allies since their loss in 2012; when it became clear that the party couldn’t win on their platform alone.

Suppressing the voting rights of non-White, straight, Protestant and conservative voices has been the primary tactic of the GOP for years. I recall clearly hearing justifications for discouraging what Washington State Republicans referred to as “automatic Democratic voters.”

They saw this as their patriotic duty to prevent what they termed as a permanent, one-party rule by making it more difficult for these voices to be heard. It was a shock that I have never forgotten, and, until I recalled these conversations in the light of racism, made absolutely no sense.

But, like their denial of the truth of climate change, and the necessity of government intervention; racism is in full focus with this legislation, as it targets BIPOC populations who typically support Democrats over Republicans.

For the GOP since Reagan, the quest is for power for the few; not liberty for all. A goal exposed by the Trump Administration and shrinking of White power.

The second is what Snyder calls sadopopulism. In essence, it’s the belief one must suffer, for another to suffer more.

The GOP has long adopted this to a pure art form. Think of the examples of the Right’s unilateral opposition to Civil Rights protections for BIPOC communities, gay and transgender rights, environmental protections and policy (including those to address climate change at both the federal and state level), as well as the protections provided for persons with disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act, to name a few.

White, able-bodied, straight, Protestant conservatives will suffer from a lack of government protections, and checks on the power of private enterprise. Such abuse knows no color, creed, race, ideology, gender or sexual orientation. But, as Snyder notes, what sells it is the belief that the “other” will suffer the greatest.

The third reason, according to Snyder, is the White race’s obsession with their coming status as a minority. According to Snyder, this obsession with the White’s upcoming minority status blinds them to the threat of climate change.

The idea is, although the suffering by White, straight, able-bodied, Protestant conservatives will be bad. But, like a spoiled, entitled child, they’ve convinced themselves that their White god will save them from anything; including the consequences of their own actions.

This is the entire mentality behind the evangelical culture’s denial of the reality of climate change, especially as it relates to the End Times. In essence, we don’t need to worry about anything, because our God will save us, no matter what.

In this twisted, self-centered worldview, there are no consequences, no repentance, amends; let alone concern for those made in the image of their Creator, who are not human, White, straight, able-bodied, Protestant, or conservative.

Other scholars have touched on this phenomenon. They argue that this projection, that, once in power, traditional religious, ethnical, racial and sexual minorities will inflict the same abuse on the White population, as was done by White society up to this point. It’s a tactic often employed by abusers toward their victims.

This fear isn’t unreasonable. The revolutionary history of Soviet Russia before and during the Civil War, South Africa post-apartheid, and more recently, in Afghanistan reveal a very natural, human desire to seek revenge on those who have hurt us. This is a feeling I’ve often struggled against in my own life. Soviet Russia not only continued, but expanded the bloodbath of the monarchy. South Africa chose a different path. It has yet to be seen which course the Taliban will take.

Snyder ends his piece with words that most of us should take to heart, White and BIPOC alike. I will end my own thoughts with his words.

“So we should be doing everything we can to prevent the objective reality of coming ecological catastrophe. And we should open up voting, get past sadopopulism, and avoid framing the future as a radical tragedy. We should keep the objective threat at bay, and teach ourselves reactions beyond blaming others. We need the technology, and we need the ideas. That is where anti-racism comes in: it is an ideal, and one that just might save us all.”

Writer with 15 + years experience; journalist, editor, freelancer, and play write. Advocate for the arts and rights of expendables. tiffanyelliott84@gmail.com