It was almost 51 years ago, when people rose up to voice their environmental concerns, that Earth Day was born. Since then, it has become a day to diversify, educate and activate the environmental movement worldwide.
We all know about climate change, environmental degradation, and endangered species. But let’s look at it from a different angle, today. An old professor of mine once told me “climate change is not a threat to earth rather it’s an existential threat for humans. The earth will eventually restore itself, as it has done before, but humans cannot return from extinction”.
This really opened my eyes to how we all hear about polar bears, melting glaciers, and other examples of how climate change will affect earth, but not much on how climate change will affect livelihoods of people around the planet. If we are kind to earth, it will be kind to us but we haven’t really been taking care of our environment.
why climate change is the biggest human rights issue in the 21st century. Well for starters, climate change is unfair, you might ask why?
Did you know that the countries that emit the most greenhouse gasses will be the least- impacted in terms of climate change dangers; meanwhile the countries with the least emissions are and will be the hardest-hit? On top of these, climate change also tends to exacerbate the already existing inequalities since it impacts the vulnerable and marginalized populations harder. For example, the well-being of women and the development of children will be threatened, which is an example of exacerbated inequality, as these groups already experience inequality in other dimensions.
As you might have guessed, former countries are countries who used fossil fuel for centuries to develop and now, are transferring faster than ever to renewable energy. They have the finance, technology, and systems for it, unlike other countries.
The under-developed or developing countries on the other hand, need to face climate change issues without having the capability and/or resources necessary, while having to continue to develop as a society. This requires the cooperation of international bodies to ensure we pass these tremendously hard times together, as a global society. Now more than ever, it is an international duty to step in and transfer knowledge and technology to all countries. We need complete solidarity.
Climate change impacts a range of rights from basic including those related to food security, water and sanitation, and land and shelter; to more macro levels such as education, culture and development.
For example, one anticipated threat is climate change-induced mass migration. Research suggests that this phenomenon could potentially create some 50 to 200 million internally displaced people and international refugees, by the year 2100.
In certain places that are at risk of severe floods and storms, the land might become impossible to live in. Climate-induced migration will violate basic international human right norms.
As I already mentioned, those who have contributed the least to climate change unjustly and disproportionately suffer its harms. But at the end of the day, earth is our habitat without any borders, no matter a leading country resident or a developing one.
As Mary Robinson, the first female president of Ireland, said in her TED Talk “No country can make itself safe from the dangers of climate change. This is an issue that requires complete solidarity. Human solidarity, if you like, based on self-interest, because we are all in this together. And we have to work together to ensure that we reach zero carbon by 2050”.
The human rights-based view of the biggest threat to earth habitats can shed a new light on how we see climate change and how much we see earth as our home. It’s not only environmentalists or governments that should be concerned with it, it’s all of us. In practice, it takes a lot more. These concerns are shifting some important policies and being employed by companies. We still have the time to save the planet, but in doing so we need to make sure we leave no one behind.
Let this day inspire you to take action towards the biggest threat of our time. We invite you to increase your awareness on environmentalism and add new routines to make your lifestyle, even if it’s slightly more sustainable. It can be ride-sharing to work, challenging your co-workers and friends on different ways of sustainable living, supporting or organizing community events, considering environmental action when voting, taking up some DIY projects to reuse the material you no longer need, or having vegan Mondays .Here are 51 actions to restore our earth according to Earthday.org. May it inspire you to live more in tune with Mother Earth.
Share with us how you are contributing to saving our planet, this Earth Day, via our different channels. We would love to see what ways you come up with to make your lifestyle more environmentally-conscious!
Like Mary Robinson, I want to finish with the words of Wangari Maathai: “In the course of history, there comes a time when humanity is called upon to shift to a new level of consciousness to reach a higher moral ground”.
Written by: Sarah Nazari
Edited and Published by: Asal Ghamari