by Fran Withrow
We’ve all heard about climate change, but you may be less familiar with the phrase “climate justice.” If you want to learn more about this (and trust me, you do), pick up a copy of Mary Robinson’s book. I stayed up late into the night to finish this quick read, and I am convinced this term should be part of everyone’s vocabulary.
Climate justice, according to Robinson, is “putting people at the heart of the solution” to climate change. She observes that countries and communities that have contributed the least to the problem of climate change are the ones most likely to suffer from its effects. Yet all of us will have to work in concert to address this urgent crisis, and we must be fair and just around the world in sharing the good and the bad of climate change.
Robinson, a former president of Ireland, has always been an environmentalist, but it was when she held her first grandson in her arms and tried to imagine the world he would inherit that she truly began to work to save the earth.
In addition to her own efforts, Robinson introduces us to different brave people from around the world who are addressing, dealing with, or battling climate change. (It was not lost on me that many of the leaders fighting for climate justice are women.) A Swedish reindeer herder explains how indigenous people need to be “at the table” in climate control discussions since she is presently witnessing firsthand how changing weather patterns are reducing her herd. A Vietnamese professor is working with local communities to protect forests because illegal logging is affecting the livelihood of women.
An Australian businesswoman decided to reduce her carbon footprint, and followed that move by starting 1 Million Women, an online movement to combat developed countries’ wasteful approach to energy usage. The president of poverty-stricken Kiribati, a Pacific nation consisting of low-lying islands, is being forced to purchase land from Fiji for the time when his entire country will no longer be above water.
It feels like an uphill battle, but there are glimmers of hope. Costa Rica produced an incredible 99% of its electricity supply from renewable energy in 2015. Many of our own country’s local cities and states agreed to follow the protocols of the Paris Agreement despite Trump’s refusal to sign this critical document. China and India are working diligently to utilize solar power. They have specific goals for reducing fossil fuel use and using renewable energy. Even Ethiopia, a place where few people have access to electricity, has pledged to reduce its use of fossil fuels and increase its consumption of renewable energy.
While those who live in poorer nations and communities will feel the effects of climate change first and foremost, this crisis will have implications for us all. Those of us who blithely consume much of the world’s wealth, who nonchalantly fill our trash cans without a second thought, who assume that it’s not our problem, would do well to read this book. The time to act is now, in hopes there will be a world worth living in for our children and grandchildren.
Climate Justice: Hope, Resilience, and the Fight for a Sustainable Future
By Mary Robinson