„There is no thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives.” This is how Black activist and writer Audre Lorde summed up the situation in a speech in 1992. Meaning: There is no struggle that fights only one problem. Because in life, problems are not isolated from each other. Can you put this quote into context for us?
Many of the societal challenges we are facing today are interconnected. That means we also have to connect them to each other while fighting them. That is also the issue regarding climate justice. Climate justice means that in the end we connect fights against the climate crisis with fights for social justice.
„A climate-just world definitely means a socially just world“
For example: The effects of the climate crisis are not evenly distributed across the global North and the global South. Yet the global South is not actually responsible for the climate crisis. If we compare societal privileges, it is the case that people who live in the North usually also have more privileges than those in the global South.
Inequalities are also found here in Germany. If we look, for example, at the flood disaster in the Ahrtal two years ago, it was people with disabilities who were most affected – because they were not rescued in time.
That means, if I understood you correctly, that we have to include different perspectives in tackling the climate crisis, especially from people who are and will be particularly affected by multiple experiences of marginalisation. A climate-just world is also a socially just world?
Exactly! A climate-just world definitely means a socially just world.
„We will all be affected to some extent by the climate crisis“
Usually, many mention the industrialisation in Europe as the starting point for the climate crisis, for climate change, for man-made climate change. When do you see the beginning?
1492, when Columbus landed the Caribbean. This is where the hierarchisation of people and the exploitation of resources began. It was also European philosophers who laid the foundation for this by establishing racist ideologies and racial theories in order to justify and legitimise the exploitation of people and nature. And there is also an important map that shows that already around the year 1800 the change in climate had become detectable.
It has become a common saying that „everyone is in the same boat“ when it comes to the climate crisis. Do you find this image appropriate?
I think the metaphor comes up short. We will all be affected to some extent by the climate crisis. But of course, it depends on whether we can deal with the effects of the climate crisis. For us in the global North, it will probably end up being less of a threat to our existence, while in the global South, people are already struggling to have enough food at the end of the day.
„climate justice movement here in Germany is undergoing an important process right now“
But at the same time, it is precisely in the global South that resistance against oppression and against the climate crisis has been going on for many decades or centuries.
That’s right! There was also resistance already during colonialism against these exploitative structures. And of course, there are protests today! For example, there is resistance against a planned oil pipeline in Tanzania and Uganda. Activists are trying again and again to draw attention to the issue. Namely, that the climate crisis is closely interwoven with capitalism. The largest shares in the oil pipelines are owned by a French company.
I feel like the frontline struggles against the climate crisis are not really in the public eye these days.
I think the climate justice movement here in Germany is undergoing an important process right now. One of the slogans of Fridays for Future is: „We are loud because you are stealing our future“. Of course, that is true to an extend. But at the same time, it blocks out the perspective that there are people who are already affected by the effects of the climate crisis and are of course also resisting it. I think this perspective has changed a bit, especially in recent years.
„We have to win over the broader society for the topic!“
What does your ideal climate policy look like?
I think the state should set incentives and prescribe measures so that people can adopt a more climate-friendly lifestyle. The infrastructure for this must also be created. For me, climate policy ideally means that we also implement a mobility change that is not only based on a drive change.
In the end it means that we need to massively expand local public transport. That we also push back automobility in the cities to a certain extent, because it is also about quality of life on site. We also have the problem that people who are affected by racism are five times more likely to live near environmental pollution than other people. And, that on a global level, we act on an equal footing with states of the global South.
What needs to change in the climate justice movement to make it more accessible and reflect the diversity of society accordingly?
It is a problem of the climate movement that it is too academic and often the language used is also very academic. The climate crisis is of course a complex challenge. If we want to reach new target groups, we need to use a language that is easier to understand.
And that we break down complex topics so that they are comprehensible, and to then go into a process of reflection together: What does this mean for me personally, for my own life? We have to win over the broader society for the topic!
This article was first published in German