Climate Voices

May 21, 2020
By: Akira Yano, Youth Leadership Mentor

Mutual Aid and Climate Justice

In an ideal society, there would be systems put in place by government entities so that everyone has equitable access to a network of resources and support that they could rely upon to ensure that their quality of life is preserved as much as possible, especially in the event of a widespread traumatic event.

Unfortunately, this is not, and never has been the case in America.

Photo © Abbie Trayler-Smith / Panos Pictures / Department for International Development (

Historically, systems created by the United States government to provide support to its citizens have been rife with disparities and inequity, often letting many marginalized communities fall through the gaps — making the same systems that they seek to preserve that much more vulnerable to unprecedented disruption.

Systemic inequities are intimately intertwined within the issue of climate justice, because in order for a solution to truly address the issue of climate change, it needs to work for everybody involved, not just some. 

It has been clear for a long time that safety nets built within a capitalistic framework are incapable of providing comprehensive and accessible care to all, but it has never been more obvious than right now as this country navigates the crisis of coronavirus.

Due to these discriminatory systems, those who were already the first to feel the effects of climate change have become the first to feel the consequences of coronavirus as well. One example of this is how Indigenous communities who are on the frontlines of the climate crisis are severely lacking access to proper medical resources, healthy foods, and inclusion within policy that is meant to provide widespread aid in the face of COVID-19.  In addition to these widespread systemic flaws, this crisis has also made visible the importance and impact of mutual aid work.

Mutual aid is a voluntary reciprocal exchange of resources and services for mutual benefit.

Credit: Photo: UN Women/Ryan Brown (

Examples of mutual aid can be something as small as sharing garden produce or groceries or as big as paying somebody’s rent for the month. This kind of work has been increasing in prevalence and visibility lately due to the recent COVID-19 crisis, putting many in need of support.  Mutual aid efforts have a longstanding history within social justice organizing, particularly in communities doing disability justice work. Check out the links on the bottom of this article if you would like to learn more about the background of mutual aid work, as well as some ongoing efforts.

As the need for mass distribution of aid of resources increases, so does the need for understanding and support of these efforts. Wondering how you can support? 

Three local organizations that are doing some amazing work in supporting marginalized communities are Navigate MN, Women for Political Change and Black Visions Collective — they were selected by Climate Generation to be beneficiaries of a series of virtual climate trivia events over the course of May and June. Gather a team together, and join us at the next event. We hope that you will join us in supporting the efforts of these amazing groups! Follow us on social media and sign up for our mailing list for more detailed updates on the trivia events.

Mutual Aid Resources and Information