It is about time that ecological sustainability and social justice will be tightened together and taken seriously. One way or another, climate change is more a problem of justice than an environmental problem. Why? Because the people that suffer the most from it, are the ones who are least causing it. If it gets one degree hotter in parts of The United States, nobody will bother and the ‘we will survive that’-mode goes on. However, in many places in the world that one-degree difference can be the difference between living and dying.
As many cultures are living from nature by direct survival, it can cost their lives. If their surrounded nature is effected or disappears, it will become extremely complicated to live. Therefore, climate change is more than ‘just a problem we will see in the future’. Classifications from right-hand politicians about seeing climate change as a first world problem is completely wrong.
Poor people suffer more from climate change
People say that climate change or the Greenhouse effect is so to say democratic because they don’t hit everyone. Nothing about that is true since it’s often the poor people who suffer from climate change and the Greenhouse effect. Those people have generally poorer health and have less access to healthcare. Also, climate change and the Greenhouse effect have affected the harvest for mostly poor countries. This costs the loose of not just even just their food, but their financial income, which creates even less access to healthcare.
With all due respect, the richer people get access to slow down climate change and the Greenhouse effect by ‘living green’, which makes it privatized. Contrary you could say that this is social justice because living green is not for free and therefore not a first world problem. Regarding health access, rich people pay a lot for absorbing the health costs caused by ecologically unsustainable economies.
European climate change
Although smaller communities will suffer from climate change, it is wise to look at what’s happening on a larger scale. What’s going on is much more complex than the sense of it being hot for many days and then complaining that it is hot in Europe. The effects of climate change have caused Europe to have more heatwaves than ever. Thanks to recent research from the European Environment Agency, it became clear that the climate change effects in Europe are causing lives. Just by heatwaves alone between 1991 and 2015, thousands of premature deaths have been caused due to the effects of climate change. People who are in a bigger risk of dying of a heatwave are baby’s, elderly and people with cardinal problems. Also, the place where you live (city center, beach or nature) affects the risk.
Climate change in The United States
More equal countries contribute less to climate change than prosperous countries like The United States. However, the uneven geographical effects will create a large transfer between the rich and poor people. Whereas rich people will have the opportunity to move, poor people will be stuck and again, suffer the most from climate change. In The United States, climate change will cause more extreme weathers and differences all over the country.
Another important factor for the cause of climate change is meat production where usually more unequal countries have a high meat consumption. The United States is the biggest meat producer in the world. Due to the high level of meat production, unequally will rise within the U.S. Meat will be seen as a luxury product and the luxury of one will be the loss of the other. This is in the context of global boundaries.
Ecological sustainability and social justice
Ecological sustainability and social justice are inextricably linked. First, sustainability is a status quo for justice. Back in the days, people have put toxic materials in the ground and didn’t care for recycling at all. The ones who are paying the bills for that are our current generations. The actions of back in the days are causing money problems today. All toxic materials in the ground have to be removed in order to make functional remediation, which doesn’t leave any more money for other sectors like healthcare for example.
Second, social justice is a status quo and killer for sustainability. You get status by having more. We can only help our planet if we change the unequally in the world. The inequality has been caused mostly by the first world consumption economy. In this case, we’re not talking about the poor people living in parts of Africa, but the people who made themselves poor. Many people are in depth because of the consumption economy. It is socially unacceptable to not have a smartphone and therefore people who actually can’t effort in, get in depth. All with the aim of ‘belong to something’ or some group and having a justified status. This is how more and more gets produced regardless of the consequences.
It is about time that politicians create a link between ecological sustainability and social justice. Pretending that nothing is going on and taking baby steps towards change will destroy our planet. Classic models of economic growth aren’t sufficient and history has shown that our planet can adapt to anything we do. The increasing ecological conflicts that arise in order to maintain an unsustainable welfare model are all too often left out of the picture. Whether it’s for the good or the bad, mother nature will change with us. To slow down our footprint we have to change our ‘normal’ standards. Not only for the sake of our nature, but also for the sake of inequality and poorness. And change is needed from all actors: from people, companies (examples of inspring companies making a change), governments, etc.
Sustainability is often defended as an environmental motive, but it needs to start working from social motives. The best we can do for our planet is work on prosperity for everyone, taken global boundaries into consideration. The ones who are only thinking about themselves will be the doom thinkers. The ones who see the size of the problem, taking in all social factors will actually change our planet. It is time to change directions together and individually leave a smaller footprint for the planet.