CLIMATE JUSTICE & ENVIRONMENTALISM
CLIMATE JUSTICE & ENVIRONMENTALISM
The term ‘climate justice’ is used to frame the climate catastrophe in ethical and political terms, as well as biological. SISTAH zine explores how women’s work as the prime organisers and activists in this domain relates to liberation.
Youth vs Government: "a fight for human life"
The UK government, through its COVID response, has demonstrated a willingness to entirely negate climate justice for the pursuit of short-term economic growth. However, young people will not acquiesce.
SISTAH zine spoke to Marina Tricks about how the youth are fighting back against the government. Marina is one of 4 co-claimants who, alongside lawyers from Plan B, are bringing a case against the UK government, on the basis that their actions constitute a violation of the right to life and family life. They are demanding that the government fulfils a legal and moral obligation to act in line with climate equity and reduce emissions.
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SZ: Tell us a little about the context in which your campaign is taking place - what recent government actions & rhetoric have prompted this?
MT: The COVID-19 pandemic has obviously left countries economically damaged, heading for recession. Yet this [UK] government has used this opportunity not to transition to a green economy in its recovery programmes, but to pump money back into the carbon economy, to put money into mining projects in Mozambique.
The Governor of the Bank of England, Andrew Bailey, has explicitly said of the Bank’s lending to business as part of the COVID response that it is not climate-considered and instead focuses on what they call the “immediate priority” of preserving jobs and livelihoods. What we can see, and what we are calling out by bringing this lawsuit against the government, is a government that is prioritising short-term economic growth, the “immediate priority”, at the expense of the lives of our families and heritage communities, especially in the global south. The government has admitted its policies set a course for 4 degrees of global warming to take place; it has the military preparing for 3.5 degrees of warming. These temperature increases will make much of Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean potentially uninhabitable by the end of the century and these government policies show a disregard for that eventuality.
SZ: Considering ecofascism & white supremacy, how are those systems operating in this situation through the UK government’s actions?
MT: Thinking about ecofascism, what we’re actually seeing right now is the slowest genocide. We’re seeing the government act in a criminal and corrupt way and this has deep historical underpinnings. Much of Europe developed and industrialised off the back of appropriating indigenous communities’ land and enslaving African people and it is these same communities that are being sacrificed by the government again now. The government is willing to make whole continents into sacrifice zones to enable their own short-term economic growth. These actions are demonstrating that, in the eyes of the government, land and lives in the global south are expendable.
The whole situation really demonstrates the replication of the oppression we have seen from the UK and similar governments throughout history. Think of Churchill presiding over the famine in Bengal in 1943. We’re seeing that same treatment of people in the global south as expendable for policy ends right now.
One thing I’d say too, when we’re talking about systems, is that our systems have made us view ourselves as so separate from this earth, from our earth. What the Youth v Gov case represents, and climate activism generally represents, is simply understanding humanity and coming to terms with our realest roots.
SZ: Young people in the UK have an opportunity (read: obligation!) to hold the government to account for their actions. So, how can people assist your campaign?
MT: It’s important to emphasise that although all of us [the co-claimants] bringing this case against the government are from the diaspora, and we are obviously fighting this on behalf of the diaspora, this is a campaign for every single young person. This whole situation speaks to the truth of young people everywhere being so badly served by their governments. The Tories voting against free school meals two weeks ago is another example of that; the government is taking money away from young people to instead spend it on policies that will cause the demise of their futures. In so many ways, this is the same fight young people are fighting in Nigeria with the ENDSARS movement and in Thailand against government corruption. It all speaks to a reality of governments acting in self-serving ways and young people having to fight against that.
So, this case is something for every young person to get involved with and support. This is not just for “activists”. An idea we have had for a line in the promotion campaigns we’re going to do for the case is “I’m not an activist, I’m a ___ young person.” It could be anything: an angry young person, a determined young person, an empowered young person. We’re also planning to do a 60-second video challenge that begins with “I’m a witness to”. We want young people to talk about everything they are bearing witness to right now and demonstrate how it’s all interconnected. So, it’s really the case that this is not just a fight for activists to be involved with. This is genuinely a fight for dignity and human life, so it has to be for everyone.
So, talk to everyone in your spaces. We’re hoping to establish some networks of young people in universities and so on, but we just want to get people talking about this and mobilising amongst themselves.
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In Conversation with Climate Just Collective
IN CONVERSATION WITH THE CLIMATE JUST COLLECTIVE
The Climate Just Collective is premised on the belief that “sustainable development will not be achieved without a genuine focus on justice. Climate change is inextricably linked to social, racial and economic inequities, amongst others.” SISTAH zine spoke to founders, Megan & Ellen, about the collective’s work.
SZ: Could you explain why you founded the Collective and what you hope to achieve with it?
CJC: In July 2020 we founded the Climate Just Collective - an online publication and collective movement. The purpose of our movement is to promote education and raise awareness for climate justice concepts/principles so often overlooked in the climate change debate. We decided to frame our thought-pieces around four key themes: Inclusive Cities, People and Planet, Human Rights and Wrongs, and Collective Action. The intent of the publication is to raise awareness for key concepts within and across each pillar to highlight the need for action/change. Our publication is aimed at those with a general interest in climate change, working professionals, students, and researchers. We intend to spark conversation and keep this going.
In September 2020, we assembled a team of guest contributors – those who contribute articles and thought-pieces based on their professional, lifestyle and academic background. However, it soon became clear that with a collective movement we could achieve so much more. We are currently in the process of expanding the Collective and have begun a book club, a webinar series, and are in the process of developing a mentorship programme. The possibilities are endless. One thing is clear – we can achieve way more together than we can alone.
SZ: On your website is the quote “climate change is inextricably linked to social, racial and economic inequities, amongst others.” Could you expand a little more on the interplay between climate change and social & racial inequities? What are the really key things that you wish people understood about this?
CJC: In recent times, there has been an increasing focus on Climate Change Intersectionality - the interconnectedness of climate change within and between human societies, social institutions, and the natural environment. In a nutshell, it is clear that climate change affects us all. But the impacts of climate change are neither felt fairly nor equally with disproportionate burdens on different groups within society. Academic research has shown that different racial groups and societal groups (the BAME community, indigenous groups, the elderly etc.) are more vulnerable to climate change due to a range of interlocking political, socio-economic, and environmental factors amongst others.
We believe in a number of key principles regarding the intersectionality of climate justice; here’s our top three: first, climate justice is two-fold: temporal and spatial – the effects of climate change are not borne by the same person – both geographically and between generations (past, present, and future). Second, it is not enough to simply recognise groups impacted by climate change but to give each stakeholder a voice, representation, and responsibilities. Finally, it’s imperative that we understand how all systems are interconnected with climate change and justice. Colonialism, capitalism, the patriarchy, are all working against the planet and her people. All forms of oppression are linked and by fighting one, we can fight all.
SZ: A really interesting article you put out spoke about reframing the gendered narrative with respect to climate change - finding a balance between women as vulnerable subjects of climate change & women as leaders in the climate crisis - could you expand a little more on that idea?
CJC: Thank you!! Yes of course. Women seem always to be framed in a way that puts them as ‘vulnerable subjects’, which suggests they’re unable to use their own knowledge or autonomy in order to seek solutions. This is fundamentally untrue. Of course, in many situations, circumstances increase the vulnerability of women - such as being closer to cooking fumes, having less access to clean water, and also often less income in case of disaster, but women are not vulnerable in themselves. There have been an abundance of studies (notably after natural disasters) that have shown women as being the key agents in community mobilisation and mitigation/adaptation programmes, particularly in places such as the Pacific Islands.
Another way in which women are framed is as having ‘untapped potential’, which is a phrase used often by organisations such as the UN and OECD. Whilst it may intend to have positive connotations, ‘untapped potential’ neglects the extensive work that is currently done by women around the world, in the home and community, which is essential in day-to-day life. It also assumes that if their labour isn’t valued monetarily, it’s entirely unvalued. This is just another facet of capitalism that renders women ‘vulnerable’ and fails to recognise them as important agents of change.
We need to realise that a lot of the work being done for climate change and climate justice right now, from top level governance to community engagement, is done by women. Women are the ones who have come up with some of the most innovative solutions to the climate and environmental crises, and are also the ones ensuring that they are tackled justly and fairly by everyone.
SZ: Who are some of the women inspiring you within the intersectional climate justice movement?
CJC: There are so many!! If you’re looking for people with an online presence / on instagram, you really must check out @greengirlleah and @intersectionalenvironmentalist. During the height of the Black Lives Matter movement in the summer, Leah Thomas made a graphic of Environmentalists for BLM, and her account has since taken off as the go to platform for intersectional environmentalism.
Three other women who I find insanely inspiring are Christiana Figueres, Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr and Célia Xakriabá. Christiana was the architect of the Paris Agreement, and by designing the treaty in terms of national benefits rather than sacrifices (an entirely new concept) - she made one of the most successful international agreements in existence. Yvonne is the Mayor of Freetown, Sierra Leone. Her plan ‘Transform Freetown’ is a holistic plan to revolutionise the Capital, with a focus on environmental and social sustainability. Célia is an indigenous educator and activist of the Xakriabá people of Brazil. She is at the forefront of a generation of indigenous women leaders fighting against the destruction of the Amazon and the Cerrado.
SZ: You’re running a campaign at the moment to get the government to take action to help environmental migrants and climate refugees ~ what would a government policy that properly recognised these crises, as well as the links between climate change and social justice, look like?
CJC: Forced displacement is a global development crisis. And one that is only getting worse. According to the UN Human Rights Council (UNHCR) (2018), there are more than 79 million forcibly displaced people globally, but today, neither the UNHRC nor any internationally recognised body recognises an official definition for climate refugees. As such, the first step is for global governments to come together to establish a definition for climate refugees/environmental migrants that is legally recognised across the world’s nations. This definition should account for the sub-categories of environmental migration as policy must vary depending on a number of spatial, temporal, and environmental factors – is the displacement temporary or permanent? Is the environmental impact a stress or a change?
Following this, an extensive review of policy must be undertaken to look at the synergies and challenges between climate refugees/environmental migrants and the other forcibly displaced person categories (asylum seekers, internally displaced persons, refugees etc.). What comes next is highly dependent on a holistic review of policies/legal frameworks – economic, political, social, temporal, geographical and spatial factors come in to play. However, human rights – basic freedoms and moral principles – must be accounted for as a fundamental principle across government policy.
SZ: To a young person uninterested in intersectional climate activism, what would you say?
CJC: Our first question would be ‘why are you uninterested in intersectional climate activism?’. As a starting point, we would encourage people to engage and learn. There are a number of great introductory resources – ‘Climate Justice’ by Mary Robinson, Instagram accounts such as Intersectional Environmentalism and podcasts such as Mothers of Invention.
Once you begin to understand the inextricable link between climate change and human rights, it’s seemingly impossible (at least in our case) to remain uninterested. Human rights are the basic moral principles and freedoms that belong to each and every one of us throughout our lives; and climate change poses a direct threat.