By Laura Zilverberg
Writer, editor, and volunteer with MN350's Communications Team

The COVID-19 pandemic has fully illuminated the inequities we face as a society and the ways those systemic problems disproportionately impact people of color and vulnerable communities, including people experiencing homelessness or incarceration. As Minnesotans seek to not only protect our neighbors but emerge from this pandemic through a just transition, we can learn many lessons about caring for one another while facing the long-term climate crisis. Hope can be found in the mutual aid programs and groups spreading across Minnesota and the country.

Even with a Green New Deal and systemic changes to mitigate climate change, we must still care for our communities. Mutual aid, a transparent exchange in which communities offer goods or assistance to one another for mutual benefit, offers a path forward without relying on the companies that are putting profits before people.

Mutual aid groups aren’t new: They were commonplace for past generations and within immigrant communities looking to help newcomers adjust to life in their new home. But they’ve seen a resurgence in recent months as the pandemic has exposed the system’s shortcomings when it comes to meeting the needs of people. Following the murder of George Floyd, local communities began creating mutual aid networks to connect people to resources following the protests.

The groups work by connecting those in need with those who can meet those needs. People simply ask for help and if someone can provide, they are matched together.

A just recovery from coronavirus puts people first, and a plan for climate change must do the same. Mutual aid and related community-building groups like Buy Nothing Groups, Freecycle, or produce/food sharing groups could help build a world where we can all thrive while simultaneously reducing our impact on the world. Instead of “same-day shipping” and a throwaway culture, we can receive gifts with gratitude, we can borrow from our neighbors, and we can build more community.

We often talk about the downfalls of focusing too much on individual actions, but this is an example of individuals coming together to create a collective change in how we think about resources and waste, and it certainly gives me hope. It’s not about charity, but rather about people helping people.

To learn more, check out some of these other groups and organizations operating in Minnesota and across the country:

You can also support the MN350 Frontline Fund, which makes direct investments in frontline community action for climate justice. When you donate to MN350 today, half of your gift will support the Frontline Fund.

The remaining half of your donation will help sustain our amazing staff to organize volunteer leaders and bring our climate justice message to every corner of the state. This year represents a movement moment, and Minnesota can be the turning point for stopping the impending climate catastrophe. We need your help to fight even harder for transformative change.

Laura Zilverberg is a public relations professional, volunteer with MN350, and mother of two. She used to be an avid runner and plans to be again once her kids sleep through the night. She enjoys reading and channeling her dread about climate change into baked goods, gardening, and blog posts.