Justice and the Sustainable Development Goals
Content Warning: this article contains mentions of racism and may be disturbing to some readers.
The United Nations has created a list of 17 sustainable development goals which we can all work towards with our actions, including how we live our lives but more importantly who we give our money to and which companies we support. These goals include climate action and reduced inequalities which, although we may not realise, go hand in hand. To go into detail about the climate crisis and injustice, we need to understand how we got here in the first place, and how our world became so unjust.
The only reason that we are experiencing a climate crisis is because of the industrial revolution, but the industrial revolution was only possible with oil and gas. Obtaining these materials, however, was a result of slavery and colonialism.
Put simply, colonialism gave richer countries access to countries with lots of oil and gas, that led to slavery which funded the industrial revolution and in turn created the climate crisis we live with today. We now see injustice in where oil and gas reserves are placed in the U.S. particularly, where they are placed in black, brown, latinx and indigenous communities. We see it when pipelines are being placed under black schools and on native land in Canada.
How Climate Change Affects us at Disproportionate Rates
Climate change is thought of as something that makes us all suffer the same consequences at the same rate, however that is far from the truth. If you are already a minority and something destructive hits your community, you aren't going to be able to handle that as well as someone who has more privilege in life. In the global south these nations are already dealing with the horrifying impacts of climate change whilst the global North still contributes to the impacts of the climate crisis in said countries. The worst global tragedies are happening in the countries that are least prepared to deal with them and have contributed to the problem the least.
Although the global South is seeing the brunt of these issues the most and have done for years now, the global North is starting to experience climate injustice. A recent example of this that hits close to home for me is the landfill letting off gases near family homes in Silverdale, Newcastle-under-Lyme. Stoke and Staffordshire are not particularly affluent areas and the unemployment rate is higher than the UK average, and so putting a quarry near less advantaged families feels equivalent to a kick in the teeth from the government and local council
A new term has been added to the dictionary as a result of the destruction of the planet: climate refugee. The UN predicts that there will be one billion migrants by 2050, and it's not a coincidence that nationalism and racism is spreading amongst the global North. The most upsetting part of this crisis is that we will see inequality in such a sudden way however the countries that can afford to help those worse off will instead turn them away and put up their borders.
'Our biosphere is being sacrificed so that rich people in countries like mine can live in luxury. It is the sufferings of the many which pay for the luxuries of the few.' - Greta Thunberg, 2018.
What Actually is Climate Justice?
Climate justice is a human-centered approach to climate change that aims to reduce emissions and protect the natural world whilst creating a more equal world in the process by addressing the social issues that created it. Justice involves looking at the intersecting systems that have built up our society and allowed us to create the crisis, such as capitalism, slavery, labour exploitation, colonialism, economic growth and racism.
The people who are being hit the hardest are those who are the least responsible.
We can tackle climate injustice with the Green New Deal, which is a plan that addresses climate change and the social inequalities that come alongside it. The name refers to Roosevelt's response to the Great Depression which was called the New Deal which was a set of new social and economic reforms. The Green New Deal combines this idea with modern technologies such as renewable energy and uses resources more efficiently. The best part of this plan is that it will create millions of new jobs in the process and help bring people out of unemployment and poverty.
Change needs to include racial and gender equality as well as human rights, we can do this by listening to those who are most affected and creating change with those who are most marginalised to make sure that everyone is involved with creating a new and better future for us all.
We need to be bold with our changes and the aims are very simple.