The Truth of It All

Every Friday, Atmos editor-in-chief William Defebaugh reflects on the week in climate and culture, sharing stories of insight and inspiration.

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“The way to right wrongs is to turn the light of truth upon them.” ―Ida B. Wells

 

As a journalist, I consider the truth to be my compass. Without truth, words lose their meaning. Without authenticity, stories lose their impact. Whenever I feel lost, I come back to this simple question: “What do I know to be true?”

 

The truth is, on days like this one, it feels easier to start with what I don’t know. I don’t know how to make sense of a world in which people like Ahmaud Arbery can be killed for going on a run at 25, in which it took over two months and a viral video of his shooting for his murderers to be charged, in which the roothold of racism is ignored while the body count for being black in America continues to rise. Today, people across the nation are running 2.23 miles to demand justice for Ahmaud and honor the day he died.

 

I don’t know how to make sense of a world in which the COVID-19-related death rate for black and hispanic New Yorkers is twice that of their white counterparts. As Charles M. Blow points out in his latest op-ed, the virus is exposing the massive race and class divides that underlie this country. In Georgia, the first to reopen have been businesses like nail shops and hair salons, where low-income Americans have to put themselves at risk by taking public transit for close-contact work—work that largely serves to “entertain and aestheticize people of means,” as Blow puts it.

 

I don’t know how to make sense of a world in which the President of the United States is a climate science denier, in which more than one million species are on track for extinction within the next few decades. As you might have read about in our new issue already, it will take a medical miracle to save one of those species: the northern white rhino, which has been driven to collapse due to poaching. As Dr. Thomas Hildebrandt says, “The rhino didn’t die out because of a failure in evolution. It died out because it’s not bulletproof.”

 

Here is what I do know to be true. I know that nothing can be healed until it is first acknowledged. I know that as long as we deny the existence of systemic racism, class inequality, and environmental injustice, they will continue to flourish. I know that the truth spreads when spoken, that it resonates in refrain. I know that nature never lies, that in every line of her story is written the potential for evolution. I know that in a few months, she proved it possible to change the world with something microscopic, whose might is measured not in size but in numbers. I know the same is true for us.

 

To demand justice for Ahmaud Arbery, visit runwithmaud.com.

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