Inspiring Older Readers
Climate Justice: Hope, Resilience, and the Fight for a Sustainable Future by Mary Robinson
Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland and a climate change activist, does an excellent job at painting a picture of the reality of climate change. This inspiring book shines a light on the extent of the climate crisis and its affects around the globe, and its intersection with poverty and inequality. The book tells the stories of “everyday people” from all parts of the world who have felt the effects of climate change and have decided to do something about it. She raises the alarm at the current and potential future issues arising from climate change while also highlighting that solutions created through lived experiences can grow into global ideas, producing positive and long-lasting change.
The book introduced me to a new term – Climate Justice. Climate change is more than just changing weather patterns and rising sea levels, it causes food shortages, pollution, poverty and puts decades of development plans at risk. The injustice being that the least culpable communities carry the greatest burden and are most vulnerable to climate change. I wonder how we can advocate for the rights of everyone having access to clean water, food, health and education without acknowledging the consequences of the worlds changing climate. Climate Justice is about recognising that climate change is more than just a physical issue, it is also an ethical, social and political issue.
This book really highlighted to me my own privilege. I have made an active choice to care about climate change and have made the active choice to educate myself on climate change issues. This is a luxury not shared with the rest of the world and I have these choices because climate change does not affect my daily life or livelihood as much as it does others, not yet anyway. I have not had my house and business destroyed because of natural disasters like Hurricane Katrine, I am not being forced or making plans to migrate due to future engulfment, I am not facing food shortages because of droughts and flash floods, I am not having to travel 12 hours to access clean water nor am I losing people through thinning ice. I have no doubt that this book will raise this alarm in all that read it and invoke the same feeling in you as it did me.
One of the things that I really like about this book is that it has broadened my understanding of climate change through the lived experiences of others. Each chapter in this book focusses on a different individual, who are mostly women, and their experiences of climate change. Each story is unique and highlights the severity and variety of the problem and opened my eyes to issues that I had not even considered are due to climate change. I want to be clear that the chapters are not all doom and gloom, they are very inspiring and showcase the amazing work that these individuals have done to create innovative solutions to helps those around them. Many of the individuals in this book have voiced their concern and used their lived experiences to influence leaders across the world, helping them realise that climate change is also a human rights issue. The chapter that resonates with me the most is chapter 7 – Migrating with Dignity. This chapter focusses on the former president of the Republic of Kiribati, Anote Tong, who had to tell his people that Kiribati was in peril of being engulfed by the sea. In response to this news, he created a series of contingency plans and purchased land so that when the time came the people of Kiribati could migrate.
In the fight to combat climate change many countries are going through a green industrial revolution and moving away from fossil fuels. Here in the UK, we have ambitious targets of becoming net zero by 2050. This is means that the UK will be powered by renewable and greener sources of energy such as wind and solar, but what will happen to the millions of people who are directly employed by the fossil fuel industry? Or the communities that owe their existence to fossil fuels? Until reading this book I had never considered these individuals, it is a perspective that I have been quite ignorant of, but I have now learnt that they are also a part of Climate Justice. They too are victims of climate change. Many industries are going to be affected by the transition to cleaner energy and although there will be more opportunities not all the jobs lost will be replaced. Ensuring that no workers or communities are left behind in the move to cleaner emissions is called a Just Transition. Chapter 9 of the book introduced me to that term and the work others are doing to ensure that fossil fuels workers are supported so they can find employment elsewhere. As a Project Development Officer for a youth unemployment project, I see the value of training and supporting people to move into more sustainable and long-term jobs. These kinds of schemes, strategies and policies are something that I will be paying more attention to in the future.
After reading this book I am left with the thought that we are all interconnected. All the activists mentioned in this book were acting locally, advocating for their communities. In doing so were given opportunities and platforms to shape global ideas around climate change bringing positive and hopeful change that affects us all. Developed countries who have built their economies using fossil fuels are responsible for 63% of global emissions1. Despite this, it is the communities and countries who have contributed significantly fewer emissions that are experiencing the worst effects of climate change, showing our interconnectedness. A key to tackling climate change is to care beyond ourselves and to care for our current global neighbours, who are facing this issue head on, as well as for future generations. We must recognise that changes to our industries, economies, homes and daily lives can and will cause larger connected systemic change. Many will wonder what difference one person can make but there is a sense of power about making lifestyle changes that will make you feel like you`re part of the solution. Sharing these with others has the potential to inspire and influence their actions and lifestyles, who in turn may encourage more people and so on. To quote the book “What would happen if we all cut our meat consumption just by fifty percent? Or if we got our electricity down by twenty percent? Or bought fifty percent less ‘stuff’? If somebody just does it on their own, you think, what difference will it make? But if whole communities do it—if the entire population lived differently—it changes the system.”
This book changes the narrative of climate change from being scientific data and predictions to the lived experiences of others. In doing so, it illustrates the true reality of climate change and the need to act now rather than later. This book does not contain practical advice and information on how to reduce your carbon footprint and live a more sustainable life, but is a must read for those wanting to learn about climate change and the extent of the crisis. It will open your eyes and help you understand why climate change needs to be taken seriously and be at the forefront of decision making. It will inspire you and get you thinking about the next steps you can take to do your part in tackling climate change.
Click here to order a copy of Climate Justice
Simran is currently the YES Project Development Officer for Leicestershire Cares. Twitter and Instagram @Leicscares
Developing Countries Are Responsible for 63 Percent of Current Carbon Emissions | Center For Global Development (cgdev.org)