My name is Audrey Holloway and I am a senior (’18) biology major with a minor in environmental studies. I have always been passionate about the environment and animal rights, but environmental justice has become a large part of what drives me since coming to Gonzaga. Being able to tie in a passion for others while also advocating for our environment is something I feel is so crucial in today’s world, and I love being able to be a part of a movement like this.
Climate change is an environmental issue, but it is also biological, economic, social, and political. How one participates in and is affected by climate change weighs heavily on your economic status and the abilities of one’s communities to cope with our shifting planet. If you have the money to be on a vegan diet or move from an area affected by heavy flooding, then great. But so many people are stuck in a poor socioeconomic situation that they do not even have the option to escape. And it is often the same people who are being most heavily affected that are contributing the least to the issue. It is so crucial to address climate change as an intersectional issue and emphasize that when we address one aspect of it, we can help so many more.
Tying climate justice in to the overall issue of climate change makes it more impactful for me personally. While I am very emotionally invested in the wellbeing of our planet for the planet’s sake, I also am a big believer in equality and social justice. I often think back to a specific instance when I was studying abroad. I had the opportunity to do a two-week road trip through Namibia at the end of my time, and Namibia is a country that is largely undeveloped. One of the byproducts of this rawness is that a majority of the country has a very primitive plumbing system, if any at all. I remember once, we were driving to a campsite one day that was deep within the desert. We were about an hour into our drive and so far the only sign of people that we had seen was a man walking a herd of goats. A little while later, we came upon a mother sitting under a makeshift canopy constructed out of branches, and her son, probably only five or six years old. As the woman sat under the canopy weaving, her son ran excitedly to the side of the road holding two empty plastic water bottles, waving them frantically. We pulled over and said hello and smiled and one of my friends filled his bottles with our huge three gallon containers of water and then gave him a few extra of our regular bottles. We gave the little guy high fives and his mother kept saying “Thank you” over and over as we gave her one of the most basic needs for human life.
It made me feel incredibly privileged and extremely guilty that I had the ability to unload so much water on them, while they sit on the side of the road during the day, hoping that someone will pass by to give them two water bottles. These people were not asking for money or food, but literally water because their country is experiencing one of the worst droughts in their history. This experience really amplified the concept that our climate changing affects people much more drastically than one could even conceive, unless you are living it. It is the epitome of injustice that people are losing food, water, and their homes over circumstances far from their control.