Climate Justice 101
Welcome to the May edition of our 2021 sustainability series. This month, we're going to discuss an issue at the center of the climate crisis and of Lucia's core business values - Climate Justice.
What is climate justice?
Also known as environmental justice, social climate justice, etc., this term calls out the fact that already underprivileged groups are also the most at-risk for suffering more, earlier, and more severe consequences of climate change. Climate change will unfortunately only add to the other global threats to indigenous, black, and brown communities.
Why does a climate justice perspective matter?
At first glance it seems that wealthier and whiter nations are doing the most polluting, have the least nature left, and are using the most resources. Wouldn't those people also be the first to experience the effects of their actions? Sadly, no. The largest polluting countries tend to extract resources, place operational facilities, and use labor from socio-economically disadvantaged areas. They push pollutants into the air, and water in these regions, far from their fancy offices while keeping capital that could be used for problem solving out of these areas through underpaying their workers and other such mechanisms.
The global pollutants also affect different regions in different ways, and it happens that some of the poorest communities will be forced to leave their land because of increased natural disaster and other effects like reduced soil quality. Hundreds of millions of climate refugees will have to migrate by 2050, and there is little indication that migration laws in wealthy nations will change enough to accommodate the movement. Furthermore, racial prejudice is already making it difficult for those migrants who are able to enter.
What action is being taken?
However, few if any wealthy governments seems to be motivated to take responsibility for their role in the climate crisis. Reduced emissions goals and recycling programs will not be enough to clean up the damage that has already been done or to prevent further damage. It does not repay the people who have lost their livelihoods. Even disaster in these wealthy places is little motivation for change. Take for example the wildfires that have ravaged California in the past few years, or the recent floods in Texas. Action that protects even wealthy white American lives is slow due to power held in lobbyist capital.
What can you do?
So, what can be done? How can your voice and your sustainable actions help a fisherman in the tropics who is losing his livelihood due to overfishing by big companies? How can it make a difference for the people in Flint who have yet to see clean water in their city? What can your reusable bags do for a family in India making just barely enough to eat each month? The situation seems hopeless, but there is hope. When we come together in taking specific actions, our voices can be heard. Here are my top 3 suggestions for making a real difference for climate justice around the world:
1. Participate in Political Action:
The best way to make lasting change is to fight for legal reforms to the system. Sign a petition like this Greenpeace one asking President Biden to make good on his promise to ban new oil and gas permits in public lands. Write to your local, state, and national representatives about legislation that will affect those in your area. Join protests calling for change. Most importantly, ask those who are most affected by climate change what they would like to see. Join in their fights and support the causes that they champion. In this way you can take steps to avoid surface level action.
2. Support the Right NGOs
Many of us have probably fallen into the trap of donating or volunteering with a nonprofit only to hear later that it doesn't do as much as we thought it did, or even worse, that this charitable organization didn't participate in charity at all. Supporting the right NGOs, those that are getting at the root causes of climate change and actively mitigating the consequences, is crucially important. On the topic of climate justice, finding organizations that partner with indigenous, black, brown, female, LGBTQ+, and impoverished communities is a great first step. Also look for groups that are working to decolonialize conservation - meaning that they do not take away indigenous rights, rituals, or land for the sake of creating a park or doing some other conservation action. These groups are not responsible for climate change, but are victims, and they should not have to suffer the burden of cleaning up wealthy white messes.
3. Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is
Finally, the most practical thing you can do is to "put your money where your mouth is." This doesn't mean you need to make huge donations to good organizations. Instead, it means that in your everyday spending, you should try to be conscious of the effect on the environment. We believe that every dollar is a vote for the kind of future you want to see. When you support businesses that invest in impoverished communities and underprivileged groups, you put money directly in the hands of those most affected by climate change. In this way, these groups can gain power to change their situation, increase their voice, educate their families, and build savings to prepare for the worst. For this reason, we are proud to participate in a fair trade business model. Our products empower communities to build the kind of lives they want, hold social power in the global economy, and have the security and resources to think up creative solutions to the problems facing them. Every product you purchase through Lucia's makes a direct impact on someone facing climate injustice, an impact that cannot be taken away.