This chapter specifically looked into the struggles that minority and marginalized groups face when it comes to the impacts of climate change. As US citizens, we don’t really have to face any of the worst consequences, so we don’t think about it. Whether we mean to or not, the “not in my backyard so I don’t care,” mentality is alive and well here. This chapter looks at case studies and the successes of different marginalized groups in countries that have been hit the hardest by climate change. The ones who are impacted in ways that are all but invisible to us.
The three groups studied in this chapter, who are disproportionately impacted by climate change, are peoples who are fighting to have their voice heard and to be told that their insight is valuable. Considering that most of the advisory and planning councils/boards that make decisions and legislation regarding action to be taken are made up almost exclusively by European men, there is obviously a disconnect between what they view as important, and what the rest of the population views as important.
The three groups of people that this chapter analyzed the progress of were women, indigenous peoples, and those who make their living as waste pickers. The authors wanted to see what kind of progress each group had made on the front of their rights regarding climate change and what needs to be done to protect their groups. The authors claimed that understanding the struggles of different groups helps us to better understand which types of rights gains are more likely to be made by those groups and others with similar struggles. The chapter presents four types of rights regimes: recognition, representation, capability, and extended rights (in relation to climate change). Each of the types is important for different reasons, and they aren’t all achievable in the same way by the groups fighting for them.
The authors explain that most of the struggle for these groups at this point is simply being recognized as an impacted group that is worth listening to. The first example of gender equality is sadly not even just an issue in climate change in developing countries, but in every single country in the world! The main goal for now is to develop a strong set of “norms” that apply specifically to climate change and how it impacts people, and then having a strict board/committee/leader that will punish those who break the norm—this is necessary because the marginalized groups that are currently impacted heavily by climate change have little to no voice, and are ignored. This would come with the groups having their right to be represented. If somebody was able to be their voice, they would have a better shot.
The groups also fight for capability, which really means that they are able to actually act on the rights that they are given. It made me think about how back during the Civil Rights movement once segregation was over, and minorities could sit where they wanted, but were still treated unfairly by people. They had the rights, but weren’t capable of acting on them. For the case study examples this means that while all of the groups technically have the right to work and be represented, they don’t actually get to act in that way or be protected from anything else happening.
The three case studies discussed were about marginalized groups that are disproportionately impacted by climate change, and they are for reasons that we rarely think about. I think they’re worth understanding, particularly because the majority of the problems these people are facing is directly and indirectly because of us.
Gender (in)Equality is an issue relating to climate change because interestingly, women are more impacted by climate change than men. This is due primarily because of the jobs and tasks that women do. Women are the ones who gather wood and water, and those are things which cannot simply be “modified” when they can no longer be accessed. With rising sea levels, and droughts, women in developing countries are struggling to do the most basic tasks to keep their families alive.
On the same token, Indigenous groups are facing hardships for similar reasons, but also due to environmental destruction. When the climate changes, their resources change or disappear altogether. When a fishing village can no longer catch fish because the fish have died, there is a problem. These are people who have lived in these areas for far longer than anybody else, and they know the land the best. This is why they are fighting to have their voices heard. They are strongly against mitigation of situations, too, because the impacts from that can cause just as many issues! (Such as building dams to control rising water levels, but then the damn negatively impacts the surrounding environment, and thus the village.)
Lastly, the waste pickers of developing countries are very hardy people. They adapted to what their environment was turned into. They saw that they could make money by collecting and sorting trash—so people rely on that as their livelihood. They argue that new “better” ways of dealing with the trash would completely strip them of their livelihood, and they are fighting against it. We created the mess, they adapted to it, and if we take that away from them, we should also find a way to help them make sure they can still survive!
Overall, all of the groups made the most headway in the rights type of recognition. They had big enough groups getting media attention that they can no longer be ignored. Being recognized as a legitimate group who is suffering greatly in the hands of those who allowed this to happen, is the first step to making sure change actually occurs. And it would seem that the wisest thing to do WOULD be to listen to the people most impacted, instead of people who have never even seen the problems they’re creating. That is what I thought to be the take-away of the chapter. In order to fix the problem, we need to analyze all of the costs and benefits of our plans, and not ignore those who will and do suffer already simply because we don’t interact with them.