Sustaining All Life/United to End Racism Events Earth Day 2021
No Human Enemies
Successful climate justice organizing relies on an accurate and comprehensive analysis of the problems confronting humanity. We have exposed exploitative systems and oppressions as the root causes and threats to the sustainability of life on Earth. (For example, capitalism is an extraction economy based on greed, racism, classism, sexism, the legacy of colonization, genocide of indigenous people, and war.) These systems and oppressions have successfully used a “divide and conquer” strategy to confuse oppressed peoples about their common goals and turn us against one another so they can maintain power and weaken our movements for change.
One of the divide-and-conquer tactics has been to define certain individuals as enemies who must be defeated. Organizing around the concept of certain humans as enemies is now limiting our reach and effectiveness as a climate justice movement. The next step for movement builders is to recognize the concept of human enemies as a tool of systemic oppression and that our liberation movements will always be constrained by using a tool of oppression. Setting human against human will never dismantle the forces that have created and perpetuated the climate crisis.
This workshop will explore an evolution in strategy for climate justice organizing that transcends the oppressive concept of human enemies. Caring for people and all living beings remains central as we develop a strategy more focused on opposing all systems of human oppression. We will explore the tools that can assist us to make a critical shift in our collective mindset. This shift can enable us to engage more people, act more decisively, and support effective, united global action.
The Work of SAL and UER
It is possible to limit the effects of human-caused climate change and restore the environment—and some big changes are needed if this is to happen. Sustaining All Life (SAL) and United to End Racism (UER) believe the environmental crisis cannot be resolved without ending racism, genocide of Indigenous peoples, classism, sexism, and other oppressions. The impact of environmental destruction and climate change falls most heavily on the groups targeted by these oppressions, and on other vulnerable populations (including populations of people who are elderly, disabled and very young).
To build a movement powerful enough to resolve the climate crisis, SAL and UER believe that the following barriers must be overcome: (1) longstanding divisions between nations and between groups of people caused by oppression (especially by racism, genocide of Indigenous people, and classism), (2) wide-spread feelings of discouragement and powerlessness, (3) a too-slow response to the escalating damage to the earth’s climate, (4) difficulties in effectively addressing the connections between the environmental crisis and the failures of our economic system.
We have found that these barriers are most quickly overcome as people heal from the mental and emotional harm caused by oppression. SAL and UER events provide opportunities for people to take turns listening to each other while encouraging emotional release. We become better able to think, speak out, organize, unite, and lead others in building a sustainable world.
SAL and UER are projects of and use the tools of Re-evaluation Counseling, which currently exists in 95 countries.