Letter to the Editor: UMN Climate Justice solidarity in response to COVID-19

The ongoing pandemic can be an opportunity to organize and advocate.

Letter to the Editor

Solidarity in a time of social distancing

We’re reframing social distancing as physical distancing in social solidarity. We need social connections now more than ever. The Conversation articulated it well: “Physical distance is important, but it’s equally necessary we maintain social closeness during this time. Staying connected with others will make us happier, healthier and more socially responsible as we continue to contend with this crisis.” 

Millions of people are stuck in their homes with a lot more time on their hands, some feeling helpless and hopeless, and others feeling more pressure and inspiration to do something to help others. This will hopefully lead to the larger population being more active in movements after COVID-19. “Even in times of social distancing, building a collective, social response to the pandemic is our only salvation,” says Paul Enger in Waging Nonviolence

The COVID-19 crisis and the climate crisis

Humans activity drives climate change. Especially through the COVID-19 pandemic, the relationship between climate change, disease and human behavior is becoming even more clear. Many of the world’s biodiversity hotspots include diverse species with a number of existing diseases and viruses.

Many researchers believe that humanity’s destruction of biodiversity, whether through deforestation, logging, urbanization, mining or other actions that disrupt the earth’s natural ecological functions may be to blame for the increase in the spread of diseases and viruses, including COVID-19.

These activities, mostly carried out by large corporations only seeking profit, are viewed as some of the largest contributors to climate change. Ecological destruction and disease introduction and spread are positively correlated, where the human-caused environmental harm reinforces the release of new diseases and viruses to the human population. Climate change only exacerbates the damages of these pandemics. 

Living through a historic trigger event

This crisis is not regarded lightly and has caused devastating health and economic consequences. Therefore, we are choosing to use this trigger moment as a call to action. This is an opportunity to enact major systemic change. We’ve already seen people helping one another through mutual aid efforts during this time, including student organizers

Political pressure and mutual aid begin at the grassroots level, and we know this from our efforts regarding the climate movement. This intersectional movement recognizes the influence that public health crises, such as COVID-19, have on our work. This may be the first global crisis for young people, but we have been actively organizing, and we are ready to tackle the issues that arise now.

We may be apart physically, but our passions for advocacy build our community. This pandemic has only emphasized the deeply rooted flaws within our current system. We are brought together by our collective experiences and will continue our fight for systemic change. If we can put people over profits in times of crisis, we always can. All are welcome to join us.

This letter is written by members of the University of Minnesota’s Coalition for Progressive Change, Students Against Pipelines, UMN Climate Strike, College Democrats and Students for a Democratic Society. 

This letter to the editor has been lightly edited for style and clarity.