I recently finished reading Climate Justice by Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland and UN Special Envoy on Climate Change. This is the first of several books on sustainability I plan on reading for Earth Month.
The message of this book is clear: climate change is a human rights issue. It affects people on the margins more than anyone else. Indigenous groups, small farmers, the poor in any nation–these are the people who suffer the most from floods, fires, droughts, loss of habitat and livelihoods.
Each chapter was about a different part of the world and a different people group affected by climate change. I learned about the floods and droughts affecting small farmers in Malawai and Uganda and nomadic herdsman in Kenya. I learned about the suffering of those in East Biloxi, Mississippi in the years following Hurricane Katrina. I read about the Yupik people of Alaska who lost their fishing villages to the rising sea levels and the Saami people, reindeer herders in northern Scandinavia, who lose people and reindeer to thin ice.
I learned about Vietnam’s ravaged forests which are being replanted and the Pacific Island nation of Kirabati which will most likely be lost to rising sea levels. I learned about what is being done to transition fossil fuel workers into new jobs when mines close and how a woman in Australia is inspiring climate action.
These stories carry with them a certain sense of dismay at the damage done to our beautiful planet, but they weren’t hopeless. They were filled with urgency and purpose. We all need to act now. Every person’s choices matter. We don’t have to be perfect, but we all have work to do and much to learn. The people in these stories have much wisdom to share with those of us who don’t live as close to the land. They know what has changed and what has been lost. Thankfully, they have been given a place at the table in climate talks and some victories have been won.
If you want to become more aware of how climate change affects people all over the planet, read this book. I think it will spur you on to good work on behalf of Earth and the people who live here.