Who is being left behind in negotiations on climate change? This question I asked in the last blog is a crucial question to consider within an eco-tethered liberation framework. Why? More often than not in climate deliberations, actions, even the intentions behind them – no matter how noble – are not carried out in a manner where those most affected have a fair and equal chance of succeeding. Right now, climate deliberations favour us in the global industrialized North.
Returning to the Bolivian situation discussed earlier (and we can include billions of other subjects within the global South), Bolivian subjects bear the brunt of climate change. Our myopic political debates have not considered the peoples, waters, land, flora and fauna of Bolivia.
To counter this uneven playing field, we need to incorporate a preferential option for the poor. Such an option does not mean that the subjects who are poor automatically get their way. It does mean that our stance toward them changes. We shift our attitudes to solidarity with the subjects who are suffering most, while striving to see the issue through their perspective. To do this entails a lot of listening – something that has not been happening at UN COP meetings.
If we listen, however, really listen to all the subjects of the global South most affected by climate change, it is likely we will begin to understand their perspective and realize what our immediate task is: to address the current global preferential option for the rich.
What does the preferential option for the rich look like? Ask yourself who is getting preference in these scenarios:
- our freedom to drive gas-guzzling SUVs or the right of subsistence farmers in Bangladesh not to lose farmland due to rising seas?
- profit for (Canadian) mining corporations in South America or the integrity of fragile ecosystems and local Indigenous communities that rely on them?
- our unfettered consumption of manufactured goods or the drastic reduction of the frequency or intensity of flooding in Guatemala (brought about by climate change)?
- exemptions from carbon taxes aligned to GHG emissions or African farmers not losing livestock (and livelihoods) to more frequent and longer lasting droughts?
- mining of semisolid bitumen from Alberta oil sands or the beauty and stability of northern Boreal forests?
- our deregulated unconstrained capitalist system with continued economic growth or the drastic reduction of the rate of species extinction on Earth (constituting the 6th major extinction in Earth’s history)?
There is a clear pattern here. Asking ourselves ‘Who is being left behind in negotiations on climate change,’ requires that we also reflect on who is getting preference. And in this case, preference continuously goes to us and our Canadian lifestyle.
Now before you go challenging me for an ‘either-or’ fallacy (a common error in arguments, suggesting that solutions are only ‘either-or’), I wish to make a case that, in this instance, there might be something to this argument: that we live within a finite world with finite resources, and that there exists an enormous economic disparity between the global North and South can no longer be overlooked. There does not seem room for a ‘both-and’ scenario (the global South grows economically as do we). We can no longer grow.
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