Climate justice is a term and a movement that recognizes the uneven effects of the climate crisis around Oregon, the United States, and the globe. The worst effects like extreme heat, flooding, and crop failures are disproportionately felt by low-income people, Black and Indigenous people, people of color, and the global South. These communities, who we consider at the front lines of the climate crisis, have already been facing historic struggles against social, economic, and environmental injustices. Those struggles are made worse by extractive and pollutive industries that have been purposefully and systemically situated next to and on the actual land of the communities. This unfair exposure to climate and environmental injustice results in acute and chronic impacts to human and environmental health.
An example of climate injustice in Oregon is how extreme heat during the summer of 2021 caused death and severe injury among farmworkers on the front lines. Due to the ongoing climate crisis, the Pacific Northwest experienced a heat dome for about five days in June, with temperatures as high as 116 degrees Fahrenheit, much higher than the usual 70 degrees expected in the area. Frontline workers doing physically demanding jobs, often those supporting infrastructure and working outside, and even inside, were heavily affected. Because there are few well-enforced state, municipal, or corporate regulations about worker safety, workers were left to fend for themselves. Farmworkers, many of whom are immigrants of color who have been systematically excluded from the minimal protection offered by federal labor laws, were particularly vulnerable. Without heat relief precautions or job security protections, workers needed to stay on the job, and some lost their lives. This example connects the social and economic injustices that are made worse by the climate crisis.
"Climate justice is about intersectional equity. It is about being radically inclusive of all groups of people, so that everyone has access to clean air, food and water. As a dear friend always says, 'climate justice isn’t just for the rich and white.' It is a fight alongside those who are displaced; whose rivers have been poisoned; whose lands were stolen; who watch their houses get washed away every other season; and who fight tirelessly for what are basic human rights." —Disha Ravi, Indian activist