How My Asian Identity Taught Me About Climate Change

This is the beginning of Overachiever’s Climate Justice Column. Read on to learn how you can contribute.

The ice is melting, temperature rising, and people dying. Climate change is an international emergency that, according to a UN report, must be addressed in the next 11 years. I and the rest of Generation Z have grown up in this climate crisis. Compared to those who grew up in the Western hemisphere, those in Asia know the reality of the climate crisis more directly. I was born in the Philippines to Filipino parents, raised in Hong Kong, and finished high school in New York City. My time in and attachment to all of these places showed me first-hand the dangers of our impending crisis. While living in Hong Kong, I would keep an eye out on news from the Philippines and was struck with fear again and again as the Philippines experienced supertyphoon after supertyphoon. These typhoons cause incredible destruction to infrastructure and human life. Typhoon Haiyan in 2013, for example, left 6,000 dead and four million displaced. Hong Kong is far more protected from natural disasters than the Philippines, but it is not without its environmental hazards. Air and water pollution from China – one of the world’s biggest polluters – would often come down to Hong Kong due to wind and ocean patterns. There were days when outdoor activities were cancelled because the air was too dangerous. There were days I would walk along the sea and it be colored red from all the waste. I would feel helpless knowing that China was not only polluting my city, but also damaging the global environment.My Asian identity taught me about climate change, but life in New York City taught me about climate injustice. Here, I learned about the effects of Superstorm Sandy and how homeowners of color were less likely to have flood insurance than their white counterparts, leaving many homeless and having to start from scratch. The fact that the negative effects of Superstorm Sandy affected more low-income communities and communities of color is an example of climate injustice. Climate justice is a movement that understands that climate change will not impact everyone equally. The most marginalized communities are and will continue to be the most affected by climate change, since they have the fewest means to adapt. Calls for climate justice first came from small island states in the Pacific who have been sinking due to sea-level rise since the 1980s. The main argument was that these countries were sinking, but they were not the ones doing the polluting. The effects of climate change have since spread and be felt the most in the Global South and many Asian countries. Within these countries, it is the most disadvantaged who are the most impacted. For example, countries like India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh have all been experiencing increasing amounts of flooding. This forces many poor rural households to migrate into cities in search of safety, and many find only overcrowding and poverty.Although climate change has only made climate injustice worse, more and more activists and environmentalists around the world are organizing around climate justice. In COP24 – the UN’s yearly conference on climate change (COP21 produced the Paris Accords) – for example, youth activists from around the world demanded for climate justice with a series of rallies, protests, and negotiations. Climate justice is an issue that encompasses everything. It is about gender, since women are more impacted by climate change than men. It is about class, since those with the capital to do so can more quickly mitigate and adapt to climate change. It is about the global economy, since the capitalist model encourages production and growth and therefore pollution. In order to best understand climate justice, we must all reflect on our own climate journeys.

Overachiever Magazine encourages its readers to look back on how the climate has impacted you in direct and indirect ways. Interested in developing and sharing your climate story with us? Reach out to overachievermagazine@gmail.com with the subject line: Climate Justice Column.

Overachiever Magazine was started by Rehana Paul in October of 2018 to give a platform to all Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities.

Our name is poking fun at the stereotype that all Asians are overachievers, especially Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities. It’s also in recognition of all of us who have had no choice but to be overachievers: managing societal expectations, family obligations, and educational opportunities, all while fighting the patriarchy.

We have grown since then, putting out bimonthly issues (we are contributor powered: apply to write for our next one!), and weekly reviews of culture, and news that is important to us.

You can find announcements, more news, and get to know our staff on social media: give us a follow, and learn how you can get involved today!

We do not claim to speak for all Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities. We are just here to give them a place to speak for themselves.

We hope you’ll join us.

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