Scholar discusses climate justice at event hosted by Rutgers Institute for Research on Women
On Thursday, Farhana Sultana, an interdisciplinary scholar in the Department of Geography and Environment at Syracuse University, discussed the future of the environment at an event hosted by the Institute for Research on Women (IRW ) as part of his distinguished lecture series.
Arlene Stein, Distinguished Professor in the Department of Sociology and Director of IRW, introduced Sultana as an internationally renowned scholar whose work spans areas such as political ecology, post-colonial development, climate justice, governance of water, social and environmental change and feminism.
Sultana said discussing the future of the climate is particularly relevant given the recent 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) held in Glasgow, Scotland, which also ended on Thursday. .
“(COP26) is the world’s largest climate conference involving heads of state, various organizations, researchers, activists, students and the general public who are truly invested in what is happening with climate change in internationally, ”she said.
Sultana then moved on to climate justice and how climate change is an ethical issue that disproportionately affects communities in terms of climate impacts, policy making and interventions.
“As global events and climate-related disasters have deepened in recent years, more attention has been paid to climate justice and the intensification of injustices,” she said.
In recent years, Sultana has said that climate-related injustices have overlapped with injustices related to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic and have exposed a great deal of suffering and inequity in communities.
She said the climate justice framework intentionally moves the conversation away from how climate change has historically been discussed in order to deal with the social impacts and results of rising temperatures.
“Climate justice is fundamentally about paying attention to and working on how climate degradation affects people differentially, unequally and disproportionately and how the resulting injustices can be fairly and equitably addressed to reduce the various marginalizations, exploitations and oppressions that result from it and are also then aggravated, ”said Sultana.
She said the communities that have contributed the least to climate change are those affected the most, which links the issue of climate injustices to those of colonialism, capitalism and neoliberal globalization.
Climate justice is ultimately about responsibility and obligation, Sultana said, as harmful global economic and political systems must be identified and underlying structural inequalities dismantled in order to enact systemic change.
“If the objective is (…) not to make the affected communities more burdensome (…) we must therefore conduct this survey on how and why different groups of people face inequalities in different ways”, she declared.
Issues such as dependence on fossil fuels, non-participatory democracy and the extractive exploitation of natural resources are critical issues that only worsen climate injustice and must be addressed, Sultana said.
She also discussed the importance of recognizing the differential damages between time periods and geographic locations, the equitable distribution of risks and benefits, and the effective implementation of climate justice.
While there has been an acknowledgment of historical responsibility, Sultana said politics and power structures have obscured progress towards social equity. She said feminist insight is important for climate justice, as feminist analysis has revealed previously overlooked concerns and connections between people.
In addition, she discussed ways in which society can move forward in critical climate justice work, including transforming itself into a regenerative economy that values cooperation and ecological well-being.
“Part of (the solution) has been to move from extractive economies to more regenerative economies that value issues of care, reciprocity, redistribution, solidarity… (and) transforming public institutions for a deeper democracy” , Sultana said.
She also mentioned the Feminist Green New Deal in the United States as a potential international effort that could promote post-pandemic recovery and the process of moving away from fossil fuel dependence.
The event ended with a question-and-answer session, moderated by Sarah Tobias, Associate Director of IRW.
Throughout the session, Sultana discussed the shift to sustainable alternative food sources and the importance of thinking about other factors such as labor relations, trade policies and production when considering such a decision.
She also said that while it can be difficult for individuals to feel like they have a significant impact on climate change, they can create impactful change by voting, coming together collectively to hold businesses accountable and thinking of new ideas.
“Climate justice is ultimately about obligations and ethical relationships with other people and ecosystems,” Sultana said. “What we can hope for is to revolutionize the way people think about climate change.”