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Dickinson to Durban » Climate Change, Environmental Justice, Mosaic Action » The privilege to act for climate.

The privilege to act for climate.

Distributing clothing items.

By Emily Bowie ’14

The last Wednesday we were in South Africa the thirteen of us were asked by Makaphutu to perform holiday deliveries to local communities of excess food and clothing that the orphanage had to spare. As we stood behind the vans holding boxes of shoes and handing individuals bread and samp each one of us experienced different, yet similar, moments of shock, reality, empathy and humility. We realized how much we have compared to the rest of the world, how much we take advantage of and how much we have to give.

After two weeks in Durban I had learned a lot about climate change, about how it is affecting people in vulnerable countries and also why countries have a hard time agreeing. It was discouraging to me, yet not unexpected, that little emerged from the conference itself. I knew going in what disagreements there would be and the gridlock they would cause. But it wasn’t until that Wednesday that I felt that discouragement. I found myself looking around and asking, when people are living like this how can we expect to prioritize our environment? Suddenly environmentalism felt pretentious to me, like it was an issue that affluent people had the privilege to worry about.

But then I thought back to the conference, to the words of the Minister of the Maldives, to the words of the Kenyan and Ethiopian citizens I spoke to; I thought back to what I learned this semester, to the videos of Himalayan flooding, to the research I did on failing agriculture in India, to the plight of Native Americans who are losing to climate change. That was when I realized that the poverty that was surrounding me is exactly what is preventing climate action: it is the primary, more immediate, priority – but it is also exactly why climate action is necessary.

The line at the distribution spot.

If we don’t do something about climate change this poverty will be more prevalent and uncontrollable, it will get worse instead of better. There will be a new sector of refugees: those from climate related disasters. Climate change includes all sectors of human suffering, which is exactly why it is hard to tackle and exactly why it is necessary; and for this reason, climate change has become “my issue,” what I now strive to educate people of and mobilize people for. I will advocate for climate justice for those who cannot fight for it themselves precisely because I have the privilege to do so.

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One Response to "The privilege to act for climate."

  1. Jennifer Doherty says:

    While the Earth has always endured natural climate change variability, we are now facing the possibility of irreversible climate change in the near future. The increase of greenhouse gases in the Earth?s atmosphere from industrial processes has enhanced the natural greenhouse effect. This in turn has accentuated the greenhouse ?trap? effect, causing greenhouse gases to form a blanket around the Earth, inhibiting the sun?s heat from leaving the outer atmosphere. This increase of greenhouse gases is causing an additional warming of the Earth?s surface and atmosphere. A direct consequence of this is sea-level rise expansion, which is primarily due to the thermal expansion of oceans (water expands when heated), inducing the melting of ice sheets as global surface temperature increases.
    Forecasts for climate change by the 2,000 scientists on the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) project a rise in the global average surface temperature by 1.4 to 5.8°C from 1990 to 2100. This will result in a global mean sea level rise by an average of 5 mm per year over the next 100 years. Consequently, human-induced climate change will have ?deleterious effects? on ecosystems, socio-economic systems and human welfare.At the moment, especially high risks associated with the rise of the oceans are having a particular impact on the two archipelagic states of Western Polynesia: Tuvalu and Kiribati. According to UN forecasts, they may be completely inundated by the rising waters of the Pacific by 2050.According to the vast majority of scientific investigations, warming waters and the melting of polar and high-elevation ice worldwide will steadily raise sea levels. This will likely drive people off islands first by spoiling the fresh groundwater, which will kill most land plants and leave no potable water for humans and their livestock. Low-lying island states like Kiribati, Tuvalu, the Marshall Islands and the Maldives are the most prominent nations threatened in this way.“The biggest challenge is to preserve their nationality without a territory,” said Bogumil Terminski from Geneva. The best solution is continue to recognize deterritorialized states as a normal states in public international law. The case of Kiribati and other small island states is a particularly clear call to action for more secure countries to respond to the situations facing these ‘most vulnerable nations’, as climate change increasingly impacts upon their lives.

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