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Transforming the System

By Sydney Coyle 

Source: Public Domain

Solidarity and subsidiarity are vital to transforming systemically unjust systems. In times of systemic and societal violence, it is important to act as an ally, in solidarity with our fellow humans. As the Student Government Association’s Senator for Sustainability, I acknowledge that the environmentalist movement has historically neglected the social inequalities and injustices that are inherently connected to environmental issues like environmental gentrification, environmental racism, climate change impacts, and unjust labor practices.

This year, in planning for Earth Week, I have asked clubs and departments to organize events with the theme of Environmental Justice in mind – that is, the acknowledgement that front-line, low-income, and communities of color are historically most impacted by environmental issues. The Dakota Access Pipeline and petroleum coke pollution in the Southeast neighborhoods of Chicago highlight that environmental injustices are a common part of our capitalist culture. Solidarity in these circumstances means continuing the conversation about environmental injustices and incorporating social justice issues into environmentalist movements; it means asking: How can I help? What do you need? It means stepping back, listening, and learning. It means being ready to acknowledge that environmental issues are also economic and social justice issues.

Acts of solidarity must be done with subsidiarity in mind – with the acknowledgement that as an activist or leader, more often than not, communities are well equipped to stand up for themselves and your role as an ally may vary.  Locally driven decisions are the most accurate in addressing the needs of a community. Subsidiarity and the decentralization of decision-making is something that I would love to see incorporated further into SGA, DePaul, Chicago and the World.  Solidarity and subsidiarity should act not just as political functions, but guide all of our interactions with our greater human community.