I breathed a small sigh of relief when I saw Joe Biden officially sworn in — and I’m excited to see Kamala Harris breaking down barriers as the first woman, Black person, and Asian-American as Vice President. It’s important that President Trump’s fascist attempt ended in failure.
But I want us to be honest about what this new president means: our fight for environmental justice has changed, but it’s definitely still a fight.
Biden has already started reversing the retrograde policies of the Trump administration, like rejoining the Paris agreement, but that’s the bare minimum. The racist systems and business-as-usual industries that are accustomed to treating Black, Brown, indigenous, and low-income communities as sacrifice zones are still in power, and will still be exerting pressure on politics.
These first 100 days will help us understand where President Biden’s priorities really lie. As a candidate, he made really encouraging commitments to environmental justice, putting vulnerable communities at the core of environmental and other policy decisions. He seems to recognize the historic harm done by fossil fuel extraction, austerity-based thinking, and a democracy that ignored the needs of so many.
But Biden has also shown support for neoliberal, austerity-informed policies that harm folks on the frontlines — like creating artificial markets for pollution that end up being a big giveaway to big business. This is the same neoliberal logic that defunded our communities and public goods, that tolerates rampant COVID-19 deaths among Black and Brown and other essential workers, the logic that militarized the police and looked the other way as pollution hurt Black and Brown and indigenous folks.
ACE supports the #BuildBackFossilFree agenda, which lays out a roadmap for President Biden to invest in vulnerable communities, end the era of fossil fuels, and bring us back from the pandemic’s devastation. It’s a clear path to avoid further climate devastation: eliminating giveaways to oil, gas and coal companies, launching a national mobilization to deliver a just and equitable transition away from extractive industry.
One piece of good news: our work is clear. For ACE and for Roxbury, we have to continue our neighborhood basebuilding and organizing, we have to organize and push politicians to hear our voices, we have to demand better when they fail to do so. We’ll stand up for justice and freedom and equality, and hold onto our values, no matter who is in office.
And, of course, so much of that work needs to happen locally: by holding our state leaders and city officials to a high standard, by demanding they center the most vulnerable communities. Governor Baker went out of his way to issue a line-item veto of the low-income MBTA pass last month. And we are close to winning some EJ protections in the climate bill. ACE won’t stop fighting for these.
We’re ready to carry on this next stage of the fight. I hope President Biden will be listening.