By Talia Bank ’23

Each April, communities around the world commemorate Earth Week and Earth Day through local projects as part of a global conversation. Early this spring, Macalester participated in Climate Justice Week and a Worldwide Teach-In, joining one thousand other institutions and faith communities in envisioning a better future within a climate justice framework. Here’s what one panel talked about: 

“Children are not responsible for climate change, but they will see the effects of climate change. When we started this program, we talked about how children could be the change. It was really special how excited the children were to see what they could do to make change happen.” –Mountain Children’s Foundation founder Aditi Kaur, speaking with educational studies professor Sonia Mehta about their children-centered approach in India to mitigating the effects of climate change

“Indigenous climate initiatives in Amazonia are founded on conceptions of territories as indivisible entities or life worlds that encompass multiple relationships. For Indigenous leaders, such relationships are what maintain the vitality of Indigenous territories. Recognizing this different way of viewing nature is also a type of justice, which I call ontological justice. Ontology refers to multiple worlds, realities or natures, rather than simply different ways of seeing the world. Defending these worlds is a central dimension of Indigenous politics.” –Environmental studies professor Sylvia Cifuentes, urging a broader, more inclusive understanding of climate justice based on her work with Indigenous organizations in Amazonia

“Climate abusers are taking us quickly to the point of no return. Right now, the biggest threat to global human flourishing and to basic human rights is global climate change, so we need to add a fifth crime to the mandate of the International Criminal Court (ICC), which would be ecocide. This is a real opportunity to do something because right now we rely on the annual global UN summits for fighting climate change. But as we’ve seen, these have limited power because tiny numbers of polluters have veto power. By contrast, at the ICC it is a majority vote [and] the ICC’s mandate affects anybody who has [committed] any crimes on the soil of member nations.” –English professor James Dawes, arguing that interpreting ecocide (environmental or ecological destruction) as a crime against humanity would serve as a fast-moving means of addressing climate change.

“As climate science and as our ability to model the climate system has gotten better, we can identify risks more specifically in both space and time. This is super important because projecting an average global temperature in fifty years is a fine thing to do, but no one actually lives on average Earth. People live in specific places, in specific regional climates, and in really specific cultural contexts. Scientists are increasingly recognizing the importance of ensuring that adaptation strategies respect Indigenous knowledge and are culturally appropriate.”  –Environmental studies and geology professor Louisa Bradtmiller, emphasizing advances in science that allow for identifying climate change risks as well as opportunities for mitigation and adaptation on a regionally specific level. 

April 22 2022

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