The phrase “climate justice” is an umbrella term encompassing the complex issues that both result from climate change and perpetuate climate change. A climate-unjust world is the one we live in today: environmental degradation, melting glaciers, rising sea levels, extreme weather events, mass extinction of species—nothing new there.
But there is more to climate injustice than that. What many do not understand is that at the core of climate injustice lies both social and economic injustice. Between developed and developing countries we see disparities in air quality, water accessibility, gender issues, access to education and levels of poverty. And even within developed nations like the Canada, income inequality, racial injustice, sexism, immigrant injustice and labor rights issues persist. These are all injustices attendant to climate change, as the communities that will suffer most are those least responsible for the problem.
Our economic system relies on the impossible idea of continuous growth yielding continuous pollution and profit at the expense of people and the environment. The current economic system is run by a handful of people who are able to manipulate massive quantities of physical resources, workers and money. Their power and influence over mass media and the political system easily drowns out the voices of communities of color and of lower socioeconomic status—the people most affected by climate change. We must change the profit-over-all mentality that dominates the human imagination in order to empower these disenfranchised communities. Without this change in mindset, we will continue on this destructive path even if we do reduce carbon emissions to pre-industrial levels.
The true bottom line is that addressing climate change is no longer just about saving trees and reducing carbon emissions. It is about creating a transition from the unjust world we live in today to a just, holistic world that we and future generations want to live in. We do not want to barely survive; we want to proactively transition out of the destructive systems that are causing climate change and create resilient systems that will support our people, our jobs and the planet.