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The climate change discourse is dominated by middle-class white men – it should be intersectional

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RUN research has found that 80 percent of those displaced by climate change are women. However, this does not mean that the dominant voices in tackling this are women. Earth Day, which falls today (22 April) with the theme “Investing in our planet”, provides an important opportunity to look at the lack of attention to women and marginalized communities within the climate discourse. While this day is an opportunity to engage in important discussions about the future of our planet, it should also be a wake-up call to reflect on our response to the climate emergency and ensure that our approach Do not exclude those who bear the most cruel. consequences of this crisis.

But what exactly does such intersectionality mean? Intersectionality, a term coined by black feminists in the 1970s, is used to analyze how different aspects of our identities intersect. This includes gender identity, race, ability, class and sexuality. The premise is that systems of oppression such as racism and capitalism do not occur in isolation, but facilitate each other. For example, the climate crisis disproportionately affects women by further exposing them to domestic abuse and existing gender inequalities, but this analysis does not account for women with disabilities or lesbians, who would be worse off.

Intimacy and climate change are inextricably linked and we must consider how different communities are affected. People of color, for example, are more likely to live in areas with the most toxic air. Similarly, members of the LGBT+ community experience social stigma and housing insecurity, making them more vulnerable to environmental disasters.

If a senior lecturer in politics at the University of Bristol, Dr. If Alix Dietzel’s comments are anything to go by, part of the problem may lie in the lack of diversity in the upper echelon of climate change discussions. Dr Ditzel says that the discussion on climate change is currently “dominated by middle-class white males” and that people of color or working class “are rarely part of the decision-making”.

In official climate change talks, every country is invited to come and discuss their position on global climate action, although richer economies often override proposals made by less powerful states, she says. These wealthier countries also have larger teams and do not face many accessibility issues such as traveling and paying for translators.

In 2021, Dietzel published a report about the inclusivity of climate change discussions, which found that white men participated 40 percent of the meetings and spoke 64 percent of the time. By comparison, women of color attended 14 percent of the meetings and spoke only two percent of the time.

Zac Polanski, deputy leader of the Green Party, says communities are not consulted about climate change in the way they should be. “It is notification, not consultation. People in power decide what is going to happen and tell people, they don’t engage people in dialogue.

Not only are marginalized communities excluded from the climate change discourse, but our responses to the crisis remain inaccessible and inaccessible to many groups in society. Bike lanes and low emission zones, for example, make life very difficult for people with disabilities and are often introduced without consulting them. Dietzel argues that our infrastructure is “built for able-bodied men”. She says people with disabilities often require specially adapted accommodation, which makes it more difficult for them to move away from affected areas. The same problem exists for low-income people, who are often unable to afford electric vehicles and install air conditioning, two recurring suggestions for combating climate change.

“One of the most common solutions is to insulate your home to combat the climate crisis and reduce your energy bills, but if you are a renter you don’t have this option, so you end up paying extra bills. There have been ones that weren’t even your problem or your fault,” Polanski explains. “There are systemic injustices around the climate and ecological emergency that feed back on political representation.”

Fishermen bring in their day’s catch in the Chellanam area of ​​Kochi, Kerala state, India, in March

(The Associated Press)

Climate justice activist Dez Agassi also believes that our current response to the climate crisis is problematic. The problem, she says, is that “we tend to see everything within silos”. She says that by not using the climate crisis as an opportunity for social change, we leave some communities out of the conversation and fail to recognize the knowledge and experiences they bring to the table. “Diversity is what makes politics beautiful,” she says, because it allows people from all different backgrounds to debate opposing viewpoints until they reach the policy they need. This is something she believes we should be doing more often, especially when it pertains to marginalized communities.

Aghazi says that when people think of environmentalism, they often envision an “environmental utopia,” but we can’t expect everyone to engage in the same practices like walking and bicycling. Agazi, who could not ride a bicycle until the age of 22 due to her dyspraxia, believes climate response is “a project for everyone”. This means that if we are able and in good health, we should think about how we can “carry the burden” for those who cannot engage in such activities.

But the question is, how can we make the climate change discourse more inclusive? As individuals, we have a duty to engage with and listen to members of marginalized communities when discussing climate change. We should listen to their stories and use the platform to help them share their experiences and knowledge. For Dr. Dietzel, Earth Day needs to celebrate community stories. She says it is often assumed that people from working-class backgrounds and disabilities are doing nothing about climate change, so Day should listen to those groups as well as scientists and politicians.

Georgie Whitaker, a climate campaigner at Greenpeace UK, believes we “have a lot to learn from communities around the world” about our relationship with the planet. “This is our home – it is everything to us and many white cultures have a different perception of this relationship.”

One way to make sure we are hearing and amplifying the voices of marginalized groups is to use Earth Day as an opportunity to engage with diverse communities while interacting with nature. This can be difficult because, as Aghaji points out, events like Earth Day run the risk of promoting consumerism, which distracts from the true meaning of the movement. “Instead of being encouraged to go outside and spend time with nature, we are told to enter gardens and buy sustainable produce”, she says. When the focus becomes on purchases, such incidents “become part of the system we are trying to dismantle”.

He believes that if we can avoid the consumerist element, Earth Day can be “an amazing chance to bring everyone’s attention to the planet” and create dialogue among those who are most affected by the climate crisis in their daily lives. can never think of. “It’s not about finding nature in a way that’s Instagrammable, but experiencing it as it exists.”