To solve the climate crisis, we must first repair our relationships

By Jena Brooker
September 8, 2021

Environmental justice scholar Kyle Whyte on reframing the climate conversation through the lens of “kinship time.”

Climate change is often thought of in linear time, as in a series of events leading toward something. How if we don’t limit warming to under 2 degrees Celsius in the next several decades, for example, we face a cascade of natural disasters. But Kyle Whyte, an environmental justice professor at the University of Michigan, suggests that climate change should also be thought of through a concept known as “kinship time.”

Pulling from traditional Indigenous ways of thinking, kinship time is understanding time through the lens of relationships. Not just familial or human-to-human, but the everyday relationships we invest our time into, ones of mutual responsibility, like mentor and mentee, or between communities, or with plants and animals. Qualities of a kinship relationship include consent, trust, and reciprocity.

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