This little boy, who lost everything to floods in Jakarta, still manages the biggest smile. When I went to the Climate Crisis and Population Displacement conference on Saturday, the severity of the impact climate change has had and will continue to have on human life really hit home - as many as 140 million people have been displaced as a result of droughts, floods, severe storms, land submergence and other disasters in the last 6 years. A lot of us struggle to make the connection - we associate climate change with a couple of ice caps melting in some distant land far far away, something a lot of us find difficult to relate to or be empathetic about - but it isn’t just a matter of environmental concern, it’s a matter of horrifying social injustice.
Those who are least likely to contribute towards climate change, those who are living in developing countries and who are already probable victims of systemic racism, prejudice and poverty, are the ones who are impacted the most. And yet when they do become displaced, they have no legal status in international refugee and asylum law. Instead they are vilified and demonised as economic migrants.
Just 10% of the world’s population is responsible for 50% of global emissions – and the poorest 50% contribute to just 10%. America, home to 5% of the world's population, is responsible for 16.4 tonnes of CO2 emissions per year, whilst India, home to 18% of the world's population, is responsible for a mere 1.6. Assad Rehman from Friends of The Earth likened the situation to the titanic, that as a global society we have hit the proverbial iceberg - however the reality is, citizens of rich industrialised countries are sitting on the top deck, sipping on cocktails, still listening to the orchestra, whilst the poor, the marginalised, and the indigenous people are trapped at the bottom, where the doors are welded shut.
This is a crisis of consumption, of governments, of corporations, of infrastructure. The most effective action we can take to prevent more people from suffering, is an economic shift from fossil fuels towards renewables - something governments are not acting upon quickly enough and fossil fuel industries are unsurprisingly lobbying against. Is it too late to reverse the damage? Maybe. But while it feels virtually impossible to realise change of this scale at a grassroots level, we can, at least, try to mitigate our own individual impact. We can empower ourselves with knowledge and awareness, share thoughts and ideas, and join the conversation. We can make consumer decisions and lifestyle choices that'll serve to protect the planet rather than destroy it. We can all do our bit, and even if it's small, at least it's still something.
Next week, I'll be sharing some tips on how to make greener consumer choices and reduce your waste. In the mean time, here are a few suggested actions you can take -
Petition to ban fracking (fossil fuel extraction) in the UK
Petition to demand protection for climate refugees
Picture Credit: @unfccc on Instagram | Flickr, bungasirait
Data collated from The Climate Crisis & Population Displacement: A Union & Civil Society Response and www.worldbank.org
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