Amplifying the voices of the vulnerable: climate change is an intersectional issue
Published on: August 26, 2021
Theres no planet B
The impact caused by global warming is unequally distributed within different layers of society and countries – this is the central argument of the climate justice theory. Countries in the global south will suffer more, and beyond that, the most vulnerable communities will face the consequences of climate change. Why are some more exposed than others?
The necessity of the climate debate in terms of world politics is crystal clear. Initiatives such as COP, climate summits, international environmental agreements are all being discussed to tackle the extinction scale event we are facing while the public pressure to develop a transparent and effective climate agenda is increasing. However, while the access to the decision-making table on public policies that affect the lives of millions of people aren’t democratized, the fight against climate change will never find its way.
Historically, the international debate is restricted to a small section of society: privileged men of the dominant class in northern countries with an advanced age, which only perpetuates the structural dynamic of exclusion. The question is how can this satisfy the demands of a highly diversified society? The perspective of those that make the decision does not match the living reality of the majority of the population so why are they the only ones taking part in this process?
The discussion must be seen through the scope of an intersectional perspective that takes into account class, race and gender. The most vulnerable to climate change are the ones that are financially vulnerable, women, and marginalized people. The debate around climate encompasses all other issues of modern society – it cannot be disassociated if world leaders want to seriously tackle the rising temperatures.
Progress for the marginalized means progress for all
Countries in the global south are more exposed to the consequences of the climate crisis simply because their security net (infrastructure, financial resilience, geographical demography, etc.) against climate-related disasters couldn’t thrive properly due to centuries of wealth accumulation centred in the northern hemisphere. Only by redirecting the financial flow to financially exposed countries, a historical reparation would be perpetrated. For this, new modern and technological economical models that harmonize with Earths’ production capacity need to be implemented to reverse the logic of the paradox of eternal economic development. A balance between industrialization and so-called progress with nature must be found.
Vulnerable populations within the north and south are more exposed to the negative impacts of the changing temperatures for being historically marginalized by the reproduction of the social dynamic system of exclusion, that is a social structure which prevents a part of the population from having access to proper housing, treated water, basic sanitation, etc.
LGBTQIA+, BIPOC, women, poor populations and future generations are victims of the constant processes of oppression and social invisibilization imposed by the unfair economic system. Given that, it is empirically proven that these are the groups that suffer most from the negative consequences of climate change. If we analyse the victims of landslides, floods, hurricanes and droughts we will see that they are the same sections of society that have historically been systematically marginalised by the existing power framework that has been around for centuries.
Getting everyone involved in the discussion
The discussion surrounding climate justice should be structured on the need to tackle, rethink and mitigate the injustices and inequalities produced by the global economic system, especially concerning climate and the environment. Summing it up, the climate debate needs to be treated as a reproduction of structural inequalities and vulnerabilities within our system – racial, gender, class, sexual orientation and gender identity, etc.
That is why it is super important to address the climate debate from an intersectional point of view. This methodological analysis allows scholars, policymakers and members involved in the climate debate to understand that the negative effects of climate change impact individuals and social groups differently. Greta Thunberg (born 2003) is setting a great example for younger generations. Her dedication and commitment to the fight against climate change has inspired the action of millions.
If society wants to seriously tackle the climate crisis we need to give a voice, we need to bring those who are most affected into the discussion table to create new ideas to curb this urgent issue. The climate debate can’t be concentrated on a select minority. Communities on the frontline of the climate crisis have much to offer. The importance of those that suffer the most to take part in the decision-making process is highlighted by Varshini Prakash, co-founder of the Sunrise Movement in the U.S. “the closest to the pain can speak toward the solutions we need with the greatest clarity”.
Creating lasting change through regenerative agriculture
What is the role of regenerative agriculture in this process? How can Regenerative Agriculture contribute to the empowerment of these populations to tackle the climate crisis and to regenerate the environment and the world?
First things first, let’s allocate regenerative agriculture within the spectre of climate-related actions.
Most of us came to know agricultural lands separated from forests. However, agroforestry (agriculture and forest) merges these two elements into one. Land management through the combination of forest and agriculture creates a climate-friendly and economically resilient environment for the landowner. The integration of those ecosystems provides an alternative way of producing food, timber, biomass, meat and many other products like our ancestors did.
It may seem odd that regenerative agriculture came before monoculture as this is the mainstream technique for food production nowadays. Nonetheless, compared to one-crop or animal farms without trees, agroforestry enhances the usage of the land. Simply put, this ancient land-use system combines trees for shading, crops and livestock under the same piece of land.
Within the mitigation actions taken to tackle climate change – a decrease of GHG emissions and carbon sequestration -, carbon sinks serve as an important ally for countries and investors to achieve their climate targets. Yet, there is no need to use new technology to do that. We already have the best technology available for free: the soil. If land use is properly managed soil can sequester more carbon from the atmosphere than any other technology.
By implementing an ancient system of agriculture called “regenerative agriculture” where trees, livestock and crops are combined and share the same environment, carbon emissions are reduced and better yet, carbon is sequestered. This system is an alternative to monoculture agricultural systems that not only contribute to Green House Gas emissions but harm the soil.
Investing in alternative means of land management is a climate-related action to be accounted for to curb climate change and reach climate targets by either countries or investors.
There are numerous benefits of combining livestock with trees and crops. The pros go from microclimate regulation which creates a micro-ecosystem that regulates the water cycle, to economic resilience through the increase of production, enabling farmers to sell goods throughout the year’s season. From a broader scope, the main benefits that foster the empowerment of marginalized populations are:
- Increased agricultural productivity: To extract the most out of the soil, farmers tend to use fertilizers to increase productivity. Yet, this way of doing business destroys the soil – and also the water beneath it – by contaminating it with chemicals. Regenerative agriculture is a sustainable alternative to fertilizers as it improves soil fertility by combining multiple crops, trees, and livestock which gives the soil more nutrients and life. By enhancing productivity, farmers can benefit more from the sale of different crops, fruit, animals and have a year-round profit.
- Reducing hunger and poverty: There is a direct link between land and survival in countries of the Global South. Traditional populations, peasants and farmers depend on their land for nutrition. By increasing productivity, agroforestry helps to tackle hunger and to reduce poverty as it allows a constant flow of food and income.
- Women empowerment: It has been proven that agroforestry systems empower women. Usually, women are very involved in the production of food and working in the fields. The outcome of implementing regenerative agroforestry means of production is to have more control over the harvest, which results in women benefiting from increased yields.
In a nutshell, Regenerative Agriculture tackles multiple social malfunctions from multiple fronts. By providing economic resilience, Regenerative Agriculture is an important cross-sectoral asset that provides income and a steady flow of food to marginalised communities. Through a secure financial and nutritional base – the starting point for guaranteeing human rights and the dignity of the human person – the most vulnerable can organise themselves as a community to be heard and participate at the decision-making table on public policies that directly affect their livelihoods.