Our house has been on fire for over 500 years

Wretched of the Earth
5 min readJun 13, 2020


The Wretched of the Earth collective’s speech at the London Climate Strike on September 20, 2019.

Thank you. All of us at Wretched of the Earth feel very inspired by all the energy that is present here today. We are not alone, we are standing on the shoulders of giants who got us here today.

I want to start by acknowledging those who aren’t here with us. I want to acknowledge our ancestors and all the people who have been killed fighting in defence of life and mother earth.

I want to acknowledge all those who continue to fight and exist on the frontlines of climate violence today.

You’ve all heard that “our house is on fire”. But for many of us, our house has been on fire for over 500 years.

And it did not set itself on fire.

We did not get here by a sequence of small missteps and mistakes.

We were thrust here by powerful forces that drove the unequal distribution of resources and the rigged structure of our societies.

The economic system that dominates us was brought about by colonial projects whose sole purpose is the pursuit of domination and profit.

For centuries, racism, sexism and classism have been necessary for this system to be upheld, and have shaped the conditions we find ourselves in.

As Audre Lorde said, “Sometimes we are blessed with being able to choose the time, and the arena, and the manner of our revolution, but more usually we must do battle where we are standing.”

And so here we are today. Still fighting. So what I want to share with you today is our vision for climate justice, so that we can get there together:

Firstly, our vision for a climate just world cannot and will not repeat the same things that got us here in the first place.

Instead, the solutions will be led by the deep knowledge that comes from the very communities who have long resisted colonialism and imperialism, and those who have the courage to embrace radical solidarity.

That means getting rid of this extractivist mindset which decides whose lives and existences matter. Whose rivers, forests, and mountains are up for grabs. Whose people’s resources can be exploited, and their lands taken. And of course, whose lives can be taken when they resist.

Our vision for a climate just future will not be one of extraction but of regeneration and care -

because the same ideology of supremacy and the same mechanisms of extraction which have led us here in the first place will never bring about justice.

Not repeating the same things that got us here in means that there is absolutely no room for nationalism and nationalist thinking in climate justice.

We will not allow the poorest in our society to pay the price for tackling the climate crisis. But neither will we allow the people of the global South to be sacrificed in order to protect the citizens of the global North.

The lives of the many cannot pay for the lifestyles of the few.

The climate crisis is a global problem.

A greener economy in the UK will achieve very little if the government continues to hinder countries in the global south from doing the same through crippling debt, unfair trade deals, and the export of its own deathly extractive industries.

The UK and Europe bear a unique and historic responsibility in producing the climate crisis — so they must pay their global fair share in dealing with it.

This is why our calls for climate justice must include calls for reparations and redistribution, both for marginalised communities in the UK and the global South.

This brings me to the second thing I want to share with you today:

there can be no climate justice without migrant justice. The UK and other countries in the global north must also acknowledge their historic and current responsibilities for driving the displacement of peoples and communities — and honour its obligation to them.

That means ending the hostile environment of walls and fences, detention centres and prisons that are used against racialised, migrant, and refugee communities.

It also means an end to the production and sales of arms and weapons that are used by this government to continue the control of resources and power across the world, and that cause immeasurable harm to our families in the global South.

It also means doing more to guarantee that migration is a right, and not just something you are forced to do because your home is inhospitable because of fire, droughts, floods, or tornadoes you had no role in creating.

This is why we are calling on the climate movement to make the fight to guarantee flourishing communities in the global north and the global south, a core part of its work.

There can be no climate justice without migrant and racial justice.

And finally, a word of caution. We are living in dangerous times and many in the global north are now waking up to the threat.

And so we may feel desperate trying to reach for quick and easy solutions. But unless we start from a place of reflection, understanding, and deep solidarity,

we may yet again see how urgency ends up looking a lot like colonialism and extractivism.

Always, when we are looking for solutions, the first call should be to uplift the voices of those fighting in the front lines.

We must defend indigenous communities and their territories where they hold 80% of the world’s biodiversity.

Through natural climate solutions they have trapped 30 times the global CO2 emissions in their territories but still they are murdered, criminalized and imprisoned by settler colonial governments, and by extractive corporations.

We could take enormous steps towards limiting climate breakdown merely by respecting indigenous sovereignty.

There is no one-size fits all set of solutions ready to use out of the bag.

But we do have solutions already, they require reparations and redistribution at an unprecedented scale, and a complete transformation of our economic and political system.

All this may sound like too much, but it is not, there are many of us reimagining the worlds we need to thrive.

At the end of the day, the fight for climate justice is the fight of our lives, and we need to do it right.

The text was originally published by Demand Climate Justice on worldat1c.org: https://worldat1c.org/our-house-has-been-on-fire-for-over-500-years-97fc668dc400