Why The Climate Crisis Is Also A Human Rights Crisis
The climate crisis has gone from being a distant theoretical danger to a very real and present threat. With extreme weather events on the rise, it is important not to forget that there are other components to this crisis.
Wildfires Destroying Indigenous Communities
2019 saw devastating wildfires in both Brazil and Australia. In both cases, the toll of the fires on the environment was horrific, and it was rightly decried around the world. However, those massive fires also caused significant damage to indigenous communities. With such large areas of land being reduced to ash and charred wood, local ecosystems were decimated. The knock-on effects of these events are difficult to comprehend, but the problems they create for local animals and humans can force indigenous people to seek food and shelter elsewhere.
Wherever groups of people are forced to pack up and move from a now-inhospitable area to one that may already be inhabited, conflict is inevitable. This has been true throughout human history, and it is no different when indigenous people are forced from ancestral lands and onto those of a neighboring group.
With little help forthcoming from Brazilian or Australian governments, the impacts of wildfires on indigenous communities are amplified. It is often harder for these people to gain access to the vital support they need.
Crises In Fragile States
Not all nations are equally well equipped to handle the climate crisis. While climate change presents significant problems for everybody, there are some nations for who it is an existential threat. In these nations, there is a much greater chance of rash decisions being taken, and human rights cast aside as leaders look to hold on to power.
Exacerbation Of Existing Tensions
Sooner or later, climate change is going to force large-scale migrations of people. Whether it’s rising rides or failing crops, there are consequences to warming the planet in the way that we are. When these events occur, local and international tensions that have been simmering away can rapidly begin to boil over.
There are very real concerns that climate change issues could provide cover for ethnic cleansing and policies of genocide. In many nations, it is the poorer stratus of society that are most exposed to the impacts of global warming, and by simply delaying taking action, these groups can be left at the mercy of their devolving circumstances.
The Poorest Are Hit The Hardest
The climate crisis is not going to hit everyone equally. It isn’t just the ultra-rich with billions of dollars at their disposal that are set to fare better than their poorer counterparts. Those of us lucky enough to live in a wealthy nation will be able to weather the impending storm much better. However, even within the United States, the anticipated impacts of climate change are set to hit poor and minority communities much harder than the comparatively rich white, middle-class communities that will be sheltered.
This disparity is further exacerbated by the allocation of local funds. Rather than spending money bringing poorer areas up to the standards of more affluent areas, many communities are having to watch while affluent areas become richer while poor people continue to miss out.
What Can Be Done?
On a societal level, advocating for political change is the most effective thing we can do to bring the climate crisis under control. On an individual level, it is important to recognize our own individual contributions to the larger problem. Until we are able to take action ourselves and convince those around us to do the same, we are going to struggle to mount a serious challenge to the unstoppable march of climate change.
However, if each of us is willing to make a few simple changes in our lifestyles then, collectively, we could make a huge difference. The impact that Covid-19 lockdowns had on the environment as compelling evidence of what we could achieve if we all focussed on it as a cohesive unit. Not only did pollution drop and wildlife thrive when lockdowns were initiated, but around the world, landscapes became visible that had previously been hidden behind a permanent smog of industrial activity.
It's the small steps we take that make the most difference, and if everyone makes one change, we can make a real difference. Here are a few easy ways to do better:
Shop from eco-friendly stores such as the 5 listed here. These stores avoid plastic packaging and provide products that have been ethically sourced.
Limit your water waste. This includes basic things around the home such as having shorter showers but should also stretch to the water wasted through other areas. One prime example of this is car washes. Gallons of water gets wasted with every car wash, so if you regularly go through them, consider reducing the number of times you go. Alternatively, you can also visit an eco-friendly service provided by businesses like Sundance Wash, who combine a variety of techniques to wash your vehicle in an environmentally sensitive way.
Try to limit the amount of food you waste (only shop for what you need, control your portion sizes, etc).
Change your travel habits. Carpool, cycle more, use public transport and even try to go abroad less by traveling within the country instead.
The climate crisis is one that affects all of us, and no one is exempt from its impacts. In fact, if you thought that Covid-19 was ruthless, then the potential impending climate catastrophe is far worse. Not only does climate change threaten the safety and prosperity of everyone on the planet, but it could also potentially present opportunities for unprecedented human rights abuses. The best way of preventing these abuses is to mitigate climate change.