By Robert Tolbert | September 22, 2014
We need to change the climate. Yes, I am speaking about the actual climate. We need to stop fracking. We need to clean up our air and water. We need to recycle, rebuild, and retrofit.
But we also need to change our political climate. Political will can’t just happen when it’s close to an election. We need politicians to do the right thing, right now.
As an activist for over 15 years, I have marched with thousands, blocked roadways, and even knocked on the door of the homes of people in power to speak truth to power about what it is to live like me. I am HIV-positive and low-income. I have spoken in various arenas to tens of thousands, about my personal fight to survive what was a plague and how I am dedicated to ending this epidemic, not only for myself but for the entire world. One of the most important marches that I will ever be a part of us took place this past Sunday –– the People’s Climate March.
Climate change is an issue for us all. People living with AIDS, queer people, people of color. We are always the ones who live nearest the bus depots, on top of the super fund sites, next to the oil refineries. Along with AIDS, people of color suffer disproportionately from asthma. We also live in neighborhoods where there are the fewest hospitals. Much like Katrina and Sandy showed us, we will be the first to be flooded and the last to get the help we need to survive.
So when I speak of climate change, I am not only talking about global warming, hydro-fracking, and pollution, but also the ambivalence of people in power to address the issues of its citizens. People living with AIDS know firsthand what it means to fight life or death issues. We did it for decades, while, frankly, many just watched us die. The fact is AIDS disproportionately affects people of color and the poorest people in the world.
We now have the knowledge and the opportunity to “change this climate.” We can end the AIDS pandemic with nothing more than the political will. We can save the planet with nothing more than political will. We need to act now and we can’t wait for a billionaire to buy the change for us.
We can generate the revenue we need, now. We can create a Robin Hood Tax to end AIDS and save the climate. We can tax the richest among us. Hopefully, hundreds of thousands in New York City alone will change the climate in City Hall, in Albany, and in Washington, DC. The climate sure is changing for the rest of us.
Robert Tolbert is board member of VOCAL-NY, a statewide grassroots membership organization that aims to build power among low-income people affected by HIV/AIDS, the drug war, and mass incarceration.