In getting ready to watch some of the Live Earth events, I began to wonder: will the global concert series make clear that even though, as I’ve heard organizers say, “everyone” will be affected by climate change, some (many) will be affected more than others? Namely those in poor countries and poor communities in rich countries (think Katrina)’people who haven’t contributed much to the greenhouse gases now warming up the planet. “Climate justice” is a rallying cry, but I haven’t heard it loud and clear from that many U.S. climate activists or activist musicians . . . at least not yet.
Some voices have been raised, as they should be. One is the NYC-based West Harlem Environmental Action Team. I’ve been using a tote bag from them that reads “WE ACT for Climate Justice” and they do, here in New York City. Nobel Peace laureate Wangari Maathai in an oped written for World Environment Day had this to say about equity and climate change:
Evidence of climate change in Africa is already here. Food emergencies have risen three-fold each year since the mid-1980s. A warming world will increase the risk factors for conflicts between and within countries. According to a recent paper, when shortfalls in seasonal rains led to drought and economic distress in 40 sub-Saharan African countries, the likelihood of civil war rose by 50 per cent. . . .
Calling for the restoration of Kenya’s water towers and protection of the Congo forest does not mean excusing developed countries, whose greenhouse gas emissions are the main culprit.
Many others and I are challenging the leaders and citizens of industrialised nations, and in fact all nations, to move beyond fossil fuels, to reduce their energy consumption, and to adopt policies so that individuals can live more responsibly on the planet.
The industrialised governments must not only accept their moral responsibility to help Africa and other poor regions find alternative and renewable sources of energy, but also protect forests.
Al Gore and the many others who’ll be on stage this weekend, I’m waiting for you. Justice and equity ought to be the words of the day, and beyond.