Not only willows are weeping

Myth: only tree-huggers care about climate change

Not that there’s anything wrong with trees. They provide oxygen, which is always handy, and it is hard to deny they do have a certain serene beauty. Nevertheless, this appreciation is not equivalent to identifying as a greenie, hippie, or nature-lover. The fact of the matter is climate change is not a stand-alone issue. Even through simply watching the news, climate change reveals itself as an ever-growing problem, its roots entwined with economic, social and political issues on both an international and domestic level.

Tree Trumped

In June, US President Donald Trump pulled his nation out of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, meeting with global outrage.  With the goal of restricting the increase in global warming to below 2C, the Paris Climate Agreement symbolised a globally unified front against the on-going march of climate change. Countries have pledged to plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions throughout the 2020s and developed nations are required to provide funding to developing nations so they can support their own eco-friendly schemes.

Such a move aligned perfectly with Trump’s “America First” protectionist rhetoric and Trump supported his decision by stating he was protecting America’s domestic industries. Trump’s attitude towards climate change is somewhat common amongst developed nations who do not consider the prevention of climate change as a priority. The US is the second biggest polluter after China but it can afford to not act on climate change. As a wealthy nation, it would be a long time before the US would begin to feel the effects of global warming. Whereas it is developing nations who do not have the infrastructure to cope with climate change who will feel the heat first. Until the US starts paying the costs of its negligence, it is easier for the US to hope other countries take on the problem and it’ll come along for a free ride. While desertification and drought are already destroying the economies of developing nations, the US won’t need to worry about such impacts for decades to come.

Politics or planet?

The Australian government’s support for the proposed Adani Carmichael coal mine in northern Queensland is a domestic example of where politics comes before planet. The mining sector produces about 7% of Australia’s GDP and the power of mining interest groups has risen greatly during the mining boom. Of course, the last thing the environment needs is a new coal mine, particularly one right next-door to an almost-dead Great Barrier Reef. Moreover, the Adani mine is not a straightforward environmental issue but the process in opening the mine has revealed a democratic deficit within the Australian government. The Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility provides funding for new infrastructure projects in the region. The supposedly independent board has members with conflicts of interest and close ties to conservative parties. Even Liberal party members, such as Bert Van Manen and Sarah Henderson have spoken out against the mine, especially when it was revealed the number of jobs on offer for Australians was 1464 rather than the original claim of 10 000. Thus, the government’s communication about the mine has hardly been transparent and is clearly being used as a tool to win over key lobbyists. It isn’t necessary to be a greenie to be offended by a cheating government.

StopAdani protest at Parliament House

Writing the marginalised further into the margins

Whether it’s the Standing Rock Sioux tribe protesting the Dakota Access pipeline, or the Wangan and Jagalingou people fighting to keep Native Title rights in face of the Adani mine, governments are not respecting the traditional custodians of the land they intend to exploit. While in western eyes, land is merely rendered to “capital” and is only important when functioning in favour of the economy, indigenous groups have always perceived land and the natural environment as a space to be respected. These environmentally destructive projects have exacerbated problems of indigenous mistreatment which have rarely received positive spotlight. A respect for climate change would mean a respect of the opinions of the peoples who have looked after the land long before European settlers invaded. Unfortunately, it seems that indigenous peoples are still losing out against big business.

Stop the Pipeline Rally 7 – Photo Courtesy of Elvert Barnes

So…?

Climate change is not just something to be left to the scientists. Caring about climate change need not entail watching every single David Attenborough documentary or chaining oneself to a tree. Kimberley Price’s article outlines various ways in which non-scientists and non-greenies are already tackling climate change. Anyone who identifies themselves as an individual stakeholder in an economy, political landscape, or wishes to protect indigenous rights, is directly affected by international and domestic responses to climate change. Climate change is certainly not going to wait for anyone to play catch-up.

Credits
Photo Courtesy of Duncan Hull