Care, Resiliency, and Rebuilding in a Time of Corona and Climate Collapse

SustainUS Official Statement on What COVID-19 Means for Global Justice

The coronacrisis has unraveled the fabric of our extractive economic, social and ecological systems, making the need for rebuilding our communities and working towards transformative global justice more crucial than ever before. 

We are not here to return to the status quo, but to transform this moment to make way for a better world.

As a national youth-led organization with a focus on global climate issues, SustainUS has sent youth delegates to the international climate negotiations and other decision-making forums to fight for climate justice for two decades. We carry the experiences of people in the so-called U.S., the stolen land that we are settled on, and acknowledge these multifaceted identities in our work. SustainUS, like our country, is made up of people with lineages across nations, and we work to embody this knowing towards a world that sustains all of us. 

Committed to global justice and solidarity, we have built lifelong relationships with youth from around the world, understanding and working beyond borders to dismantle shared injustices across our planet. Many of our members and alumni have continued to powerfully lead and show up to the climate justice movement, transformed by the experience of amplifying our voices on an international stage against corporations and corrupt governments. 

During this pandemic, our organization and members remain committed to the collective care, healing, and liberation work for our communities as well as our friends in the Global South. We continue to do this work because our communities, those of Black, Brown, Indigenous, and Global South communities, low-income and queer communities, have always been in crisis mode. 

We are not only trying to survive the COVID-19 pandemic, but continue centuries-long fights for liberation against colonialism and U.S. imperialism. 

We struggle against extractive economies that exploit our communities; against health, food, and water crises powered by systemic injustices; against dangerous loans from global financial institutions that are meant to keep us dependent on the status quo.  

These crises, alongside the coronavirus outbreak, exacerbate already existing injustices of our current system based on predatory capitalism and supremacy culture. While these crises make visible longstanding traumas and oppressions, we are here to make visible the interconnections of our struggles and movements. In this moment, we are clear how capitalism cannot and will not ever save us, and we are here to demand the world we deserve.

Spending the last twenty years working in solidarity with youth around the world to intervene in international climate policy-making has made a few things clear to us in this moment:

Those on the frontlines of crisis are on the forefront of change: Indigenous, Black, Brown communities, immunocompromised and differently abled folks are more than a statistic; they/we hold crucial perspectives and solutions. Caring for the most marginalized supports the well-being of all peoples; no one is safe until everyone is safe.

The system is not built for us, but we are made for each other. Mutual aid networks have existed long before this pandemic, out of the necessity to address deep-rooted oppressions and disinvestment. The fact that they have proliferated in direct response to this public health and economic crisis shows the people will always choose to take care of one another, especially when governments won’t.

We continue to fiercely advocate against the United States’ decades long inability to heed the global call of caution from countries it deems less worthy. Time and time again when the Global South and countries with emerging economies call on the U.S. to take action in the interest of the international community, our governments’ representatives do not show up for the collective global good, no matter the administration. Instead, they defer to corporations to continue their extraction to preserve the nation’s economic advantage, to the detriment of sinking island nations and withering ecological systems. As an organization, we are committed to dismantling this story from the bottom-up.

We reject the United States’ actions to defund international organizations, such as the World Health Organization, halt immigration processesand stop crucial supplies from getting to countries in the Global South. Our grief is global and our solutions are not a competition between nation states. While the U.S. government attempts to divide and conquer through systemic disinvestment, pitting communities and state governments against each other, and Global North countries against Global South, we reject this scarcity mindset fueled by imperial borders. We reject xenophobia and antisemitism. Instead, we uplift empathy for humanity as a shared struggle.

The climate crisis does not stop for a pandemic. We remain vigilant in our fight for climate justice. Hurricanes, wildfires, droughts and other unnatural disasters will continue. Extractive pipelines, fracking wells, and unsustainable infrastructure of the old status quo are still being built on native land and next to vulnerable communities. A world beyond fossil fuels, centered on community-owned regenerative energy, is urgently possible. Still, this crisis shows us that community care and the essential workforce is what has always kept our society going. Deep relationship building in our organizing and our personal lives is one of our strongest tools to building resilient communities in the face of compounding crises. While global leaders have decided to postpone climate negotiations this year, our work for climate justice and reparations cannot wait. We will continue to keep fighting.

The pandemic is an extreme symptom of the climate crisis. Our collective response must also address the inequities at the root of the climate crisis, which include our health as a sacrifice zone. Just solutions to the pandemic go hand in hand with just climate solutions. Now, it is abundantly clear that the coronavirus has decimated communities across the globe, unearthing the complex and harsh circumstances of the most marginalized. The same migrant farmworkers, Indigenous communities, and low-income people without access to the internet or the privilege to stay at home are impacted first and worst by the climate crisis. Even worse, we know that the damage we continue to make on this planet will pave the way for worse pandemics to happen down the line.

We cannot wait for another catastrophe to hit us for the world to realize that these systems have failed us all. We need just and equitable solutions now. The global response to this crisis needs to center liberation, radical empathy, a monetary transfer from wealthy nations to poorer nations, and global cooperation against imperialistic and hegemonic practices during crises. We need to center just solutions to the climate crisis that are guided by Black, Brown, Indigenous, and Global South wisdom.

While our organizational and usual programmatic work has been disrupted, SustainUS will be using this time as an opportunity to:

  • Use our platform to share and amplify our community’s creative interventions and local organizing calls to action.
  • Prioritize our ability to be a force for change through shifting our culture and structures beyond that of an organization and more as a community, embodying lessons from our work with the Wildfire Project.
  • Lean into our collective care through social calls, expanding our mental health support resources, and supporting each other’s wellness, in addition to tending our friends’ across the globe.
  • Reevaluate and shift our programs and UN engagement for the upcoming year, pivoting to domestic efforts, a move to mutual aid, and media-based advocacy.
  • Share our collective wisdom through reviving the Training Collective to revamp and skill up young movement leaders.
  • Build a better world through global solidarity and decolonial foreign policy. We will continue to work towards a Global Green New Deal and organize to kick Big Polluters out of decision-making spaces and stimulus packages.

The world we know is already dying, and we must create a new one.

Where we see a disaster, corporations and governments see opportunity. In the wreckage, the world we know is already dying, and we must create a new one. We are mourning, and we are fighting. We are angry, and we are hopeful through taking action. We carry our empathy and compassion for each other just as we carry our rage at the leaders and systems who have repeatedly failed us. Together in critical care and community defense, we will succeed and thrive.

Forever towards a future worth fighting for,

The SustainUS Community