Just found a good new website which promotes news and analysis from a Canadian perspective on climate change and the frustrating failure of world governments to commit to doing anything significant or swift about it. The Canadians for Action on Climate Change site is run by an umbrella group of organizations called Climate Justice Now!- “a network of organisations and movements from across the globe committed to the fight for social, ecological and gender justice.” These both look like stellar sites with up-to-the-moment news and a social justice perspective which lays the blame on government and corporations, and seeks to engage citizens in taking charge and powering forward with solutions on all levels.
I wanted to link to these sites to encourage readers to visit and read, and at the same time I want to provide a critique of the writing that I have seen so far from those two websites. Oh wait – I just found a third one, linked from Climate Justice Now – Climate Connections is another informative site providing cross-postings of news about global developments and the impact of climate change. Anyways – these are good and hard-hitting websites where the authors are laying out hard truths about climate change and its effects on the environmental and social levels. The authors are clearly forward-thinking, and address the issue of climate change and pollution as it relates to “oil, coal and gas” exploitation by northern powers.
Since the “historical responsibility” for industrialization and pollution lies on the shoulders of northern nations (that is, powers from Europe and North America particularly), it is hypocritical and patently unfair for those same nations to turn around and put the squeeze on southern countries to reduce their emissions – while doing nothing in their own arenas to reduce emissions or secure more just and sustainable ways of living. (In fact, it is in the best interests of those made rich from industrialization to try to keep things as they are – since trying to redress the situation would mean giving up control of the resources needed to keep concentrating wealth and power). That is what is meant by ‘climate justice’ - that there should be global justice for those who are worst-hit by the effects of climate change, and responsibility assigned to those who have caused the vast majority of the damage.
It’s well past time for us to de-hitch the wagon from capitalism’s mad dash. Resources and technology must be shared globally in order to alleviate the global catastrophes that are already on us – and that are looming. By sharing resources and technology, I mean finding clever and lasting solutions for environmental and social problems: like providing solar oven technology to women in arid regions, so that they no longer have to scour the lands for every last scrap of wood, wasting energy and contributing to desertification.
But to get back to my criticism of these very inspiring and interesting websites: the same writers who are so hard-hitting about social and economic truths seem to be more than timid about one aspect of climate change. We know well the effects of the exploitation of oil, coal and gas. But what about agriculture? What about the concentration of lands and the use of larger and larger tractors and more and more pesticides and chemical fertilizers, and final shipment over long distances – all of which uses petrochemicals, sending pollution into the air and stripping the soil of life? More pointedly, what about animal agriculture? What about the terrible waste of water, food, and land as animals are shoved through birth and death in order to be – again – shipped long distances to end up on people’s dinner plates? What about the global injustices of rainforests being slashed and burned in order to provide grazing land for cows destined for fast food slaughterhouses? What about the emissions of methane from every single farm which raises animals – factory-farm style or not? What about the impact that grazing animals have on the local fauna in every single ecosystem where they are present – and the theft of lands from indigenous animals in order to corral those grazing animals?
What about the reports (Greenhouse Gas Emissions from the Dairy Sector [see particularly pg. 32], Livestock’s Long Shadow, and Climate Change Implications for Fisheries and Aquaculture) produced by the United Nations which blame animal agriculture for a significant amount of global warming emissions? What about the urging from the United Nations for a shift to a plant-based diet in order to promote global equality and enough food for everyone to eat? Doesn’t this matter immensely to the discussion of climate change? Doesn’t everyone need to eat – and don’t the rich nations have culpability in deciding whether or not to consume energy-intensive, profit-raking and life-destroying foods from animals?
Justice for animals is part of global social justice. Without viable ecosystems, humans can’t survive anyways. And ecosystems aren’t ecosystems without the animals who inhabit them, pollinating, fertilizing, grazing, and interacting with plant life in complex ways. And free-living animals won’t survive in any number – their global extinction wave is well-documented at this point – unless we ease our pressure on their habitats, their waters, their forests, their oceans. And we can ease that pressure by halting our wasteful, destructive practice of animal domestication and switching to small-scale, labour-intensive, diversified permanent cropping systems out of plants and trees that are hardy, indigenous, and regionally-appropriate. After all: an acre of walnuts can produce more protein than an acre of grazing cattle. And trees also absorb carbon from the atmosphere – something that we’re in a bit of a mess about right now.
If we want global food justice, we need to look to systems of agriculture that are small-scale, resilient, open-pollinating, high-production, l0w-input and water-efficient. We need to be clever about this, to rediscover the vast wealth and heritage of the plant world. In my previous post, I mentioned mushrooms: a vastly under-appreciated crop which, given the right habitat, can re-appear year after year with little human help. Mushrooms also synergize with nearby plants, providing nutrients to their root systems and speeding the process by which decaying matter turns into soil. I just mentioned walnut trees. Trees are another vastly underappreciated crop: they provide their fruits year after year with little input, can take water and nutrients from deep below the surface and mulch the earth with their nutrient-rich leaves; they stabilize the soil, and provide shade, shelter and habitat to human and animal alike. I mentioned resilience: plant crops for the future must be able to withstand the projected challenges of climate change, such as extreme weather, drought or flooding. Resilient seed stocks don’t come from profit-raking giants like Monsanto; they come from indigenous local knowledge and the genetic heritage of specific ecosystems.
This is hope. And I am very personally involved in this project, having just landed on a four-acre piece of land which is partially wooded, where I aim to produce food from perennial plants and mushrooms. But the demand for global climate justice means that others in the world must be given the opportunity to do likewise. Since industrialized nations have built their wealth on the backs of others, it’s the least that we need to do to share knowledge, resources, technology and manpower with citizens across the globe. If we can reach the stars, we have the knowledge and wealth that is needed to solve our problems here on earth. And we need to take less; and the calls for drastic reduction in northern consumption need to include the call for an end to animal consumption, if justice is truly to be reached.