Comment 117232

By cyberfarer (registered) | Posted March 24, 2016 at 19:28:11

I wish to be clear that I intend no disrespect to Don McLean. I value and appreciate his activism, but I think I must address this narrative: "People are feeling the pressure to think about climate change as a justice issue. The wealthy cause it and the poor pay for it."

Often, news and media reporting will focus on the risks to the world's poor as a result of catastrophic climate change. And as much as I agree the poor will carry an unequal and unjust burden, to the ears of the rich Northern world, it is a siren call to business as usual.

I don't mean to say that to be dismissive or cruel or lacking empathy, but to state clearly a fact: Our societies, in general, do not care about the poor. Since 9/11 four million people have been killed through violence, globally, and almost all of them in the global south. Last year, 2.2 million people died, ninety percent of them children, from water borne and preventable disease.

In Canada, two-thirds of First Nations communities face issues around poor quality drinking water. The inaugural Liberal budget allocates $618M for water on reserves when $6B is needed just to address existing deficiencies. Provincially we can't agree working people deserve a living wage and we argue, implicitly if not explicitly, that the working poor are obligated to subsidize lower prices or higher profits with deprivation. Here in Hamilton we have a crisis emerging around affordable housing but few dollars to address the growing deficit generating real human costs.

That the poor disproportionately carry the burden of the costs of our society is not news. Arguing the poor will continue to carry the burden under a climate changed regime is a call to inaction. I'm sorry. It is also only partly accurate.

Naomi Klein, in her book This Changes Everything, details how some rich believe they can buy their way out of the consequences of climate change. This is the perception that must be addressed.

From the flooding in Calgary and Toronto to Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy to the California drought to rising sea waters to the new research showing industrial agriculture could face sever negative consequences (http://phys.org/news/2016-03-impact-climate-agriculture-underestimated.html) contributing to higher food costs and shortages, rich economies and peoples are not immune to the impacts of climate change.

If the worst case scenarios for abrupt climate change come true, and we remain on a business as usual trajectory, rich countries will collapse right along with poor countries. There is no wealth immunity. If we can understand that and communicate it, we might have a chance.

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