If you care deeply about feminism, black lives matter or any other equality justice movement then you should care just as deeply about climate change

The fact that the world will warm by 1.5 degrees is almost meaningless to most people – why would I give a shit about that? For non scientists that means zero, zilch, nada, or maybe just nicer summers. We should be preaching instead about how climate change is as much as an environmental turning point as it is a social turning point – that does mean something, to everyone. Climate action promotes racial equality, gender equality, food for all, shelter for all and a voice for all, not just putting solar panels up. Otherwise it fails. If you dig a little further, very little Climate action is solely about greenhouse gas emissions.

The way the media talk about climate change is as if it is its own entity, separate from the issues of racial equality or classism. An issue limited to arbitrary (in most people’s eyes) tipping points, extinction of creatures people will never see and extreme weather most feel will never come to them. 

It is no wonder then, that people distance themselves from the movement – if you, emotionally, care more about gender equality, you will put your time into that instead. The reality is that climate action is feminism, it is racial equality, and so if you put your time into climate action you are putting time into your own equal justice fight.

The reason for this? The fundamental causes of catastrophic climate change – inequality, accumulation of wealth, waste, privatisation, money grabbing, power grabbing and consumer capitalism are the same causes for social inequalities. More than this, climate change is affecting minorities and most unequal groups far more than white British men. Further still, fighting climate change is impossible without equality. If we don’t allow women, or ethnic minorities to help promote change, if we don’t provide a more equal society then the trend of uneccesary waste and consumption continues. Inevitiably, humans will consume more resources than the earth can provide.

This is not about making sure women and ethinc minorities don’t start consuming more than the earth can provide. It is instead about limiting what the privaliged can consume and in doing so, allowing sustainable living.

I know I am painting these incredibly complex historical and deep rooted issues with a broad brush, but if white men didn’t make grabs for power, money, accumulate wealth then black women would be far more equal and we would be consuming far less of the earth’s resources. Simply put – it helps solve both sexism, racism and climate change.

What can we learn?

If you are someone who feels strongly emotionally connected to equality for women, ethnic minorities, low income groups or persecuted religious groups then climate action should emotionally connect with you to – they are both fighting for the same thing.

If that is you, then I am not blaming you. Instead it is the turn of the media, extinction rebellion and other climate action groups to drop useless taglines like the 1.5 degree warnings and illustrate why people should care.

Going forward, do not separate the issues. Know that when you fight for gender equality, you are already a climate activist. If you are a climate activist, then you are fighting for gender equality.

The water crisis from climate change will be more than going thirsty, it means war. We don’t need to imagine it – In India it’s already arrived.

With climate change pushing half (half!) of the world’s population into water scarcity (the lack of sufficient, clean drinking water) last year, it is no surprise to see more and more fighting and war over a resource that should be a basic human right. This conflict can manifest indirectly, as shown by a full blown war in Syria, or directly, as is the case in India currently.

Listen to this piece carefully. It might sound far off now, but this is a precursor to a water crisis that will be at the doorstep in your lifetime. 

Climate change is a cause

The 500 million people – 70 times the population of the UK, facing drought in India alone, is due to many factors. The sheer number of people needing access makes the shortage more intense, and terrible governmental planning doesn’t help – unchecked privatisation and governmental negligence has led to water being traded as a commodity, given only to those who can afford it. Meanwhile, almost no regulation results in the 800 million farmers squeezing the last drops of water into their intensely wasteful irrigation system (and who can blame them?).

However, an increasingly acute monsoon style climate is what is causing water shortages to get worse at a faster rate than India can adapt to. Simply put, climate change is causing longer and more intense dry periods which lowers the water table. When rain does come, it is more ferocious over a shorter period of time, meaning you cannot capture it all. More than that, most of India’s rivers are horrifically contaminated – flooding pours this contaminated water into the precious few fresh water wells there are.

The impacts of water shortage goes well beyond the environment, and even thirst. It is intensely social.

As I bang on about repeatedly, the impacts of climate change are not just limited to thin polar bears, and habitat loss around the world – impacts that, whilst very important, don’t cause an emotional connection with people in the same way social conflict does. There are countless ways in which a shortage of water can cause social conflict. I will brush over a few lightly, with the hope that you leave with a general painting of the desperation these people must feel and the anger they face from all directions.

Firstly, and most easy to understand, is that when you (you, one, anyone) is thirsty, tensions run high, everyone has experienced that. Now think of that feeling constantly for weeks on end and there’s nothing you can do about it.

 When you don’t have water, you try to find it. This leads to many on the outskirts of cities, who are being ignored by the government, to dig their own wells to get water. People upstream try to redirect rivers to capture more whilst others literally steal some from neighboring towns. When it is so precious, water becomes something that you own, like a TV or a phone. It’s yours now and that means something. Little wonder then, that this grabbing of water at the expense of others (to reiterate, who can blame them?) causes a real sense of injustice and anger.

Not just at each other, but different political, social and religious groups. Groups, whose relationships in India are already stretched due to their heightened hierarchical structure (India has a caste system, which places ethnicities into different levels of importance).

Lastly, when people are frightened of their situation, they move. Even in the UK we can see the conflict migration causes – the larger the scale the more conflict. Look to Syria to see what this migration can do.

These aren’t predictions, they are all happening and the results are there to see. Last year 40 Indian soldiers were killed by a suicide bombing in the hotly contested region of Kashmir. You can see the incredible political power water has when India’s ‘jaw breaking response’ was to construct a dam, cutting off water to the drought stricken region.

Bore holes are privately owned, so the distribution is inherently unfair, driven by wealth, not equality. Those who don’t have money have to deal with infrequent and unreliable tanker deliveries, deliveries which frequently bring fighting – at least 3 died last year during the ditribution of water.

 I’m lucky enough to have been to India and even in the short space of time I was there there was a huge strike – all trains were blocked, busses were burned and there were several instances of police brutality. Most devastatingly, a canal was blocked, resulting in an acute water crisis in the nearby cities, including Delhi.

Jat agitation – A lower social class without access to water leads to riots.

Why should you care?

The number one thing I want you to take away from this is an emotional connection for those whose lives are affected by water shortages. Then, you must make the link between the emotional connection and climate change, and in doing so I hope you feel more alarmed about climate change, realsie it’s real life consequences and make you feel more like acting on it.

No you cannot vote out the Indian government, you cannot influence Indian policy directly or tell farmers how to irrigate lands more sustainably, but you can help with the most important cause – climate change. Do anything you can to reduce your climate footprint to keep India’s climate more stable. In fact, forget India, this is for you and your children, who will be seeing first hand the effects of water conflict soon enough.

If you liked this article, then please follow my blog, or my twitter and instagram pages for more. If this article didn’t float your boat, check out my other two pages, which are more geared towards those that are less alarmed by climate change, or even doubt it’s legitamicy. Finally, the most important thing is that you use your voice, so comment on this article, speak to your friends or contact me to write an article.

LILAC housing – Proof that living in the UK can be environmentally friendly, affordable and attractive.

LILAC (Low Impact Living Affordable Community) is a cooperative eco-housing project in Leeds, UK, finished in 2013. With A unique economic model, coupled with an innovative design and community input, LILAC has shown that the act of conscious environmental living isn’t a choice reserved for the middle class. The site provides a priceless opportunity for those who care about the world they live in, but do not have the income or time to act.

The Problem

Environmental impact starts from the home. Yes the building materials and land have a footprint, but the home is also where we consume energy, eat and travel from, which is why the home is such a crucial building block in the fight against climate change.

Existing in the UK has become a commodity. The rich push us like pawns around the housing chessboard, slowly putting the squeeze on prices until some can no longer even afford rent, let alone think of buying.

Just 40% of adults between 25-34 own the home they live in. In fact, the latter is the average age of a person’s first purchase. Those that do own a property can make the most of a broken system and sit on their property with a bigger wage than most people. Source.

The result is a population, unfairly skewed towards low income groups and ethnic minorities, who are living in temporary accommodations, thrashing to keep their heads above the spiralling rent prices. Only those with a huge income can afford to build ‘eco-homes’ which always seem more like a phoney dick swinging contest, showing off only to others in the green cult, than a genuine attempt at sustainability. 

Spending big on eco homes like these is a privilege only some can afford.

How does it work?

At LILAC, the whole community has the same mortgage, and work together to pay it off, meaning that one person is not wholly responsible for the repayment. Imagine how much more stable you would feel going into buying a house, knowing that there are 30 other people contributing who can continue paying the mortgage off, even if your income went down.

Not only that, but each person pays a flexible rate – 35% of your calendar earnings, allowing those on much lower wages to buy a home. If you earn less, you pay less. 

LILAC gives hope to the countless young people who are daunted by the prospect of skyrocketing prices or even being kicked out their rented accommodation.

The housing market isn’t fair but LILAC proves that this doesn’t have to be the case. You can take that pay cut to have the job you really want. You can live somewhere modern and environmentally friendly without having to double your income. You can help the world, just by living. Buying sustainably doesn’t have to be exclusively for the rich.

What makes it eco?

The community is always the focus at LILAC, and at the centre of this they have a hub. Here they can buy locally grown (often on site) produce, share tools, bikes and vehicles. The whole site is structured towards sustainability – solar panels on the roof, large south facing windows to efficiently heat the house, each made out of strawbale. LILAC then, isn’t just designed sustainably, but it allows everyone to behave sustainably too.

Conclusion

The home is a centre of all our lives and the basis for effective environmental action. In a deeply unfair marketplace only the rich can afford eco-living. LILAC proves that this doesn’t have to be the case. You can live sustainably whilst making sure the homes are affordable with a decent economic model. For you, reading this, consider the possibility of living in one of these community eco housing projects, talk about them, promote them and most importantly, show policy makers that they are worth investing in.

If you liked this article, then please follow my blog, or my twitter and instagram pages for more. If this article didn’t float your boat, check out my other two pages, which are more geared towards those that are less alarmed by climate change, or even doubt it’s legitamicy. Finally, the most important thing is that you use your voice, so comment on this article, speak to your friends or contact me to write an article.

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