An Intersectional Lens to Carbon Conversations TO
Written by: Laila Jafri
Carbon Conversations TO is committed to addressing the gap that exists between climate change and mental well-being. However, we would also like to recognize that these conversations are mainly possible because of the economic and social privileges that come with living in a developed city in Canada. As we engage in important dialogue about tackling the climate crisis, we must keep in mind the communities that are already living through the consequences we are trying to prepare for.
Last year, over 200,000 families in Afghanistan had to leave their homes because of a severe drought, a threat-magnifier to the country’s ongoing conflict. In Bangladesh, monsoons and cyclones are showing up stronger and more often, bringing with them a greater potential for internal-displacement as well as higher rates of water-borne disease. Already, we are uncovering undeniable connections between global conflicts and climate change. The Syrian civil war, for instance, and its connection to a climate-related drought that led to a mass migration which, “in turn exacerbated the socio-economic stresses that underpinned a descent into war”. Here at home, Canada’s indigenous communities are bearing the brunt of climate shifts and remaining largely unheard and underserved. In the past 20 years, annual temperatures have already gone up by over 3°C in some parts of the Northwest Territories; this has impacted everything from housing, transport as well as food and water security.
The point of mentioning these cases is not to victimize the people they are about. It is to begin including them in our conversations and acknowledging that their rights as human beings depend, in part, on environmental protection; and that their fight for both began a long time ago.
If climate change was only a policy problem, we probably would have found a way around it. We are facing something that needs to get more personal before it can get better. We need to reimagine the direction of our lives so we can see how they connect and depend on one another.
So, what can we begin to do?
While we focus on exploring how our lifestyles impact climate change, it is equally important to explore how our actions, and inactions, can and have affected communities more vulnerable than ours. We have a responsibility to seek their stories, pay attention to what they are saying and understand how the actions we take for ourselves trickle down into their reality.
As important as technical language is in sparking innovation and influencing policy change we must be mindful of the fact that every solution, policy change or technology we do bring to the table will impact different communities differently. When we think about climate solutions, we have a responsibility to think in terms of accessibility, socio-economic development, power relations and ecological relevance; and we have to do it the right way.
Further explaining this idea is a quote from an article written by climate justice activist, Majandra Rodriguez (translated from Spanish to English):
“We need to provide resources and access to those who don’t have them in ways that are not tokenizing. Organizers have to stop talking about “empowering” people on the margins, as if they didn’t have their own power already. It’s about getting out of the way for others to take up space while valuing the fact that power already exists in marginalized communities. It’s also about understanding our own identities, where we benefit from the system and where we don’t — and taking responsibility for our layers of privilege in how we move about the world. It’s about established organizations being watchful of the inequalities they perpetuate, especially in terms of access to resources and to the job market within the non-profit complex. Through all of this, we have to commit to working slowly in spite of the urgency of our crises, and to holding ourselves accountable when destructive dynamics arise.”
Our ecosystems and social systems are sore from years of injustice and environmental degradation. They are sensitive to the smallest of changes, so everything we do reveals a stance we take for or against preservation. Perhaps in narrating our stories out loud, we will be able to find out what truly drives us to seek practical, actionable, and inclusive solutions. The conversation begins with us but it certainly does not end there.
About our Intersectionality & Climate Action blogs: The purpose of these blogs is to connect the CCTO community with literature and media produced by the larger climate justice community. The more words and angles we have to approach this topic the greater chance we have of working with everyone no matter who they are and what they believe in.