This blog post was written by Katie Gard, Climate Education Assistant and organiser of the Climate Justice event in Sustainability Month.
Climate change will impact different people differently. Therefore, it’s likely to further exacerbate existing inequalities across generations, thus creating greater inequality and injustice. The recent Climate Justice Event, held during Sustainability Month 2022, explored narratives of exclusion which can often be perpetuated within environmental movements and discussed how inclusion can be promoted instead. The event involved a panel consisting of three wonderful speakers: Elias Yassin, Suzanne Dhaliwal, and Harpreet Kaur Paul. The speakers combined their personal experience with academic rigour to deliver engaging and informative presentations which challenged the misconception that social justice is unrelated to the climate movement. Although we acknowledged that it was impossible to comprehensively explore all the various avenues of climate justice, the speakers discussed themes including, but not limited to, disability justice, racial justice, and land justice.
Elias discussed how people with disabilities are often excluded from environmental and political activism: he drew upon specific instances within Extinction Rebellion and the recent event COP26. He explored the need to recognise issues of accessibility within wider society and the climate movement. Furthermore, he emphasised that the only true liberation is collective liberation, within which disability justice must be central. He also referenced a variety of resources for those who wish to understand more about the subject, all of which can be found at the end of this post.
Secondly, Harpreet Kaur Paul discussed the disparity between the ways in which different communities experience climate impacts worldwide, based on centuries of oppressive systems entrenched in inequality. For instance, women and girls often need to travel further in drought-ridden countries, which can increase their exposure to gender-based violence because of precarity driven by climate change impacts. She further discussed the compounding forms of oppression incurred by climate injustice, for instance how trans* people who are refugees can be subjected to binary ways of existence within refugee camps in relief countries.
Finally, Suzanne Dhaliwal discussed systemic injustice and highlighted the connection between environmental destruction and systems of white supremacy and patriarchy. She emphasised the need for decolonisation, and the importance of accountability within this process, particularly of destructive legacies and histories. When providing examples of her previous activism, she brought up the need to care for those who challenge dominant culture, alongside the importance of serving others within activism. I encourage you to watch the available recordings, for a summary cannot do justice to the extensive examples and content described by the three speakers.
After the speakers’ respective presentations, we transitioned to a discussion in which the panellists answered questions prepared by audience members. Some key highlights from this section included the need for self-work within collective organisations. Reflecting on the work of bell hooks (1994), the speakers discussed the need to build trust grounded in intention, humility, and grace within environmental spaces. Given that ideal solutions are not likely to be achieved overnight, they expanded the understanding of what ‘action’ means by advocating for imperfect action together whilst simultaneously working towards a new and reformed system. Moreover, it was highlighted that activists should be centred in allyship, to advocate and achieve collective liberation and justice for all.
You can access the available recordings and recommended resources through this link.
Hooks, b. (1994). Teaching to transgress: education as the practice of freedom. Oxfordshire, England. Routledge.