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  • Writer's pictureGuilherme Schneider de Moura

Invisible environmental connections


Guilherme Schneider de Moura

Translated by: Henrique de Jesus dos Santos


Whilst we're not yet sure that there is life on another planet, this one is still our home.

 

Perhaps many people don't take such good care of it. I'm reminded of an interview with Saramago, where he draws attention to the following point: "...the spectacle that the world gives us at present and the spectacle that the world promises us in the future, I can only say the following: the man, has been and will continue to be the inventor of all wonders, of art, of music, of beauty, of everything. But the man has also invented something that does not exist in nature. Man invented cruelty. No animal is cruel, I ask you to think about that. We invented cruelty and we invented torture. No animal is cruel. You see, a lion hunts for food. There is no cruelty in that act, because the lion needs to eat. Now, cruelty is man's work and cruelty directed against our own kind is our own doing..."

 

The cruelty mentioned by Saramago is what society has been doing to our fellow human beings for a long time. With the growth of cities, the expansion of roads, the increase in population, the construction of houses and public facilities, social and environmental vulnerability has emerged on the periphery, concentrating residents who are unable to live in a more structured place.

 

You see, climate change is nothing new to common sense, the questions of its consequences are out there and practically all of us know, even if superficially, ways to mitigate this effect. Floods, extreme temperatures, droughts, floods, landslides are just some of the effects that everyone is already feeling as a result of climate change.

 

Recalling Saramago's statement that "Cruelty directed against our own kind is our own doing", I would like to point out that peripheral locations in cities, especially in metropolitan regions, suffer much more from the consequences of climate change. People who live in these places are in a state of exception, they are groups segregated for environmental reasons, it has become the norm. As urban progress ends up legitimising their existence and perpetuating this situation, it is clear that these segregated groups are suffering from Environmental Racism.

 

For Abreu (2013), environmental racism in its exclusionary and prejudiced facet results in the formation of these excluded groups, whether in the form of environmental outsiders or environmental homo sacer. Exclusion presupposes, at the very least, the mitigation of the citizenship of these individuals, perhaps the complete extirpation of this citizenship; one way or another, these groups or individuals end up being characterised by sub-citizenship.

 

Note that these groups are disqualified and annulled as not being similar, because they live in places without basic sanitation, without electricity, without regularisation of their land, without drinking water, without public facilities, without access to basic health care, without  basic education of quality. Brazil's environmental racism is accepted by the population, many believing that such differences are natural, both between locations and by skin colour. After all, black men and women are the majority in these places.

 

Climate change is no longer a scientific abstraction, but a phenomenon manufactured by us humans whose impact is directly on the lives of people all over the world, although this segregated group of people are the ones who pollute the least, are least responsible for the emissions that cause climate change, but are primarily the most vulnerable.

 

Understanding that climate change goes beyond the rise in sea levels caused by melting glaciers, understanding that climate change is more violent than the fury of a hurricane, more violent than the rage of a flood, understanding that climate change is gradually causing food shortages, increasing pollution and poverty, as well as jeopardising decades of social, environmental and economic development.

 

This injustice, for which the burden is heaviest on those who did the least to cause the problem, makes it clear that we need to fight for Climate Justice.

 

If there is a climate change problem, it is largely an environmental justice problem. It's up to us, as we continue to exist on this planet, to share the burdens and benefits of living here and to remember the rights of both today's most vulnerable groups and tomorrow's future groups.

 

References

 

ABREU, I. S. Biopolitics and environmental racism in Brazil: the environmental exclusion of citizens. Opin. jurid. vol.12 no.24 Medellín July/Dec. 2013.

 

CANIL, K., Moura, R. B., Sulaiman, S. N., Torres, P. H. C., Abreu Netto, A. L., & Jacobi, P. R.. (2021). Vulnerabilities, risks and environmental justice on a macro metropolitan scale. Mercator (fortaleza), 20, e20003. https://doi.org/10.4215/rm2021.e20003.

 

GARCIA, Rafael. Saramago on Jô. Youtube, 16 July 2019. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=77Zb_xMRNuE.

 

HERCULANO, Selene. The clamour for environmental justice and against environmental racism. Revista de Gestão Integrada em Saúde do Trabalho e Meio Ambiente - v.3, n.1, Article 2, January/April 2008.

  

ROBINSON, Mary. Climate Justice: hope, resilience and the struggle for a sustainable future. 1 ed. Rio de Janeiro: Civilização Brasileira, 2021.

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