When I started this whole journey towards an eco-positive lifestyle, I started out with trying to live zero waste. I saw pictures of the polluted seas and read about the environment. I wanted to make the earth a better place by changing my behavior. And this aspect is something I also hear people talk about all the time: we have to save the planet, the environment, the oceans. And even though I think this is true, I don’t think it’s just about the planet. It’s about us, humans. Over the years I’ve learned that all the things I do for the sake of the planet or environment are mostly issues about equity. Equity for all humans.
Let’s face it: the climate crisis is about us. We need to save our own race, the human race. That’s because earth will survive without us. I acknowledge that the things we do to our planet are horrible. In some cases we do irreversible damage and in other cases we don’t even know yet what the consequences of our actions are. We wipe out entire species and cross certain thresholds. That’s horrible in itself, but still, after all this, the earth will survive. The planet will still be here if we don’t manage to combat the climate crisis. Maybe it’s in another form, but it will be here. Evolution has tough us that life can flourish again long after the human race might be gone. It might even be a good thing if the human race dies off. If certain species do survive the coming decade and we don’t, they can finally thrive. We will no longer dominate and destroy their world. The bottom line is: we the climate crisis is mostly about humans.
First things first, we need to combat the climate crisis in order for humankind to survive. However, the climate crisis has been a slow proces over the past decades. Certain parts, and therefore people, in the world suffer from the consequences before others do. This makes the climate crisis as it is right now an equity problem which is reinforced by the fact that climate change is mostly caused by the richest part of the world. In theory it is quite simple. A small part of the humans on the world is causing a massive problem that right now mostly makes the rest of the world suffer. It’s just not fair. That’s why this climate crisis is a matter of equity and therefore compassion. The humans that cause the biggest part of the climate crisis need to live more compassionate quit being selfish.
Right now, most rich people make selfish choices. They will have that big steak or flight to a foreign country. They will invest in oil and gas to make a profit their-self. They do buy that new pair of shoes even if they already own 20 pairs. That’s what’s happening. We need to learn that this crisis is about equity. If the richest humans do better, everybody thrives. That’s because the poorest people are hit first.
The Groups that Suffer
The fact that certain groups suffer the consequences of the climate crisis way earlier and way more makes this a problem of equity. The first group to be named is poor people. The global south is a region where the climate crisis already has mass consequences (which explains the mass refugees), the areas close to the equator. Harvests fail, desertification increases, temperature rises, etc. These areas are the areas where some of the poorest countries in the world are located, which doesn’t make them resilient. Historically, marginalized groups are the first to suffer consequences of environmental change. Indigenous communities for example, forced off their land. It has also been proven that climate change increases gender inequality. Woman are usually dependent on the natural environment in order to survive. And due to racism people of color usually live in poorer areas. This makes them more vulnerable to the climate crisis since these areas are at risk of all sorts of factors like floods. Climate justice is social justice.
I know this story is horrible and makes us humans look really bad. But even after all this, I think most humans are inherently good. I believe we all have compassion in us and want for all humans to thrive. I think this problem is caused because people don’t see the direct consequences. When someone eats a steak, they don’t see that this causes climate change (nor that they’ve taken an animals life just for their pleasure). When someone flies 3000 kilometeres to go on a holiday, they don’t see the emissions that it causes. The climate crisis is a slow proces and for rich and privileged people it’s usually invisible. I think that makes for the ignorance. Not the fact that people are pure evil.
And I think that’s why we need to see the climate crisis as an equity issue. I think people will respond differently if they know this issue is about people, people just like them who want to live a happy life. If we tell people it’s good to purchase less stuff because it’s better for the planet, that might not ring a bell with someone. If we tell them it will make a big difference for other people as a matter of climate justice, they might care. Let’s make the climate crisis about equity.