Wed. Oct 21st, 2020
The Hardest Thing About the Green New Deal
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            </aside><p>Mariana Enriquez grew up on the wrong side of the Riachuelo, the poisoned, lifeless waterway that separates the city of Buenos Aires from the slums to its south. “Four million people without sewers or plumbing,” she tells us. The river’s proper name, Matanzas—“Slaughter”—derives from the slaughterhouses that operated along its banks for two centuries, their animal effluence mixing with industrial and human waste to poison the waters. Among Enriquez’s earliest memories is the river’s putrid smell, which would wake her up some mornings as a child. And she remembers the floods—only they’re worse now, and more frequent, with some neighborhoods flooding twice a month: “The kids go swimming in the streets as if they were pools—the rotten water no longer bothers them.”<aside class="ad right most-popular-plus-ad grey_back">
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</aside><aside class="left indent indents related-newarticle author-modules book-module" readability="2.5"><h4>Books in Review</h4>     






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Sulaiman Addonia is a refugee from Eritrea. As a child he survived war and a Sudanese refugee camp before escaping to London with his older brother, who was then only 17. Now he lives in Brussels, where he founded a writing academy for fellow refugees, helping them tell their stories. His partner is a climate activist from a middle-class white family. He used to tell her: “Saving the planet you destroyed is your fight and not mine.” But these days he thinks of his family back in Eritrea, one of the world’s poorest countries—“the scorching heat they faced, the failed harvests in the region, the decimated workforce,” and “the magnificent coral reefs,” on which so many lives depend, “dying off”—and he knows the climate is everyone’s fight.

Say their names. Mariana Enriquez and Sulaiman Addonia are but two of the contributors to Tales of Two Planets: Stories of Climate Change and Inequality in a Divided World, a new literary anthology edited by John Freeman. My descriptions come nowhere near doing justice to their stories and the power of their writing. You must read them and encounter their voices yourself—along with those of 34 other contributors, including Edwidge Danticat on Haiti, Mohammed Hanif on Pakistan, Anuradha Roy on India, and Ian Teh on China, to name just a few.

I’ll admit that this anthology brought back visceral sensations and emotions that I sometimes fear I’ve grown too numbed by my daily consumption of climate news to feel anymore. But there they were, my familiar companions: the old grief, the old rage. And, if I’m honest, the old despair that’s always lurking. There I am, reading this book on my comfy back porch in an affluent town west of Boston, feeling overwhelmed by my sense of complicity in unspeakable injustices against people, actual human beings, everywhere on Earth—and by my sense of powerlessness as an individual to stop any of it. I could tear down my solar-paneled house, live in a yurt, and convert my yard into an organic community garden, and it would make absolutely zero difference to the fates of billions whose names I’ll never know and can never say.

If I’ve learned anything over the past decade covering and engaging in the climate justice movement in this country—the same movement that has pushed the concept of, and varying proposals for, a Green New Deal to the very center of American politics—it’s that “solidarity” is complicated and often elusive. In movement circles, the word and concept of solidarity is all too often used casually, almost thoughtlessly, as if it’s a given that all of us fighting for climate justice are in solidarity with each other and with all of those, the vast majority in the Global South, who are on the front lines of climate catastrophe even now. We may believe this, and say it to ourselves and others, but most of the time it simply is not so. Or, at least, not so simple. At the global level, the only level at which humanity’s future can and will be decided, such solidarity is far from certain.

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