At the Ecology Action Centre, we strive to recognize and incorporate social justice ideals and action into all our efforts. In our work on climate change, we recognize that not all people are affected equally by climate change, that not all contributed equally to creating climate change, and that not all benefit equally from the developments that have created climate change. In fact, those people who are already marginalized by society are affected the most, and contributed the least. By working for climate justice, we aim to counter the social justice issues that enabled and are created by climate change, and to mitigate the effects of climate change in ways that also promote and enhance social justice. These efforts are linked to the international climate justice movement, and are consistent with ongoing work for sustainable development here in Nova Scotia and around the world.
What is climate justice?
Our global society distributes wealth and resources unevenly, based on class, gender, ethnicity, race, orientation, identity, religion, and geography. As a result of this, certain people’s lives and livelihoods are unjustly valued more highly than others’. At the same time, large fossil fuel companies are often given an unfair level of power and influence in political, economic, and social decision making.
People who are affected by these decisions, however, are often excluded from influencing them. This difference in power is one of the main causes of climate change, and it is also a major barrier to climate solutions. Therefore, at the same time as we are working to address climate change, we must also address the inequality and injustice in our societies. Inequality, injustice, vulnerability to the impacts of climate change, the power to protect yourself, your family or community from its damaging effects, and the power to influence policies to mitigate its effects are not separate issues, but deeply connected, and must be addressed together. This is what it means to work for climate justice.
Ecology Action Centre’s Statement on Climate Justice
The impacts of climate change on ecosystems and species around the world are well documented. However, climate change is not just an environmental issue. Climate change is also a human issue. The causes, consequences, and solutions of climate change are interwoven with specific geographic, social, economic, and political conditions that are relevant locally and globally. These conditions make some populations and social groups more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.
Indigenous people, people who receive a low income, racialized people, people with different physical abilities, children and elderly people, people of certain religious beliefs, women, people living in socially or geographically vulnerable places, people living subsistence based lifestyles, and future generations will be particularly affected by impacts of climate change, such as drought, floods, extreme weather events, and reduced food and water security. As these defining features are often overlapping and compounding, certain people and populations can be vulnerable to climate change in different ways.
Social justice is as much a pillar of confronting climate change as are scientific understanding, ecological awareness, Indigenous ways of understanding, behavioural and technological solutions, and environmentally sensitive public policy.
The Ecology Action Centre confronts climate change every day with its projects and campaigns. By working for climate justice, we address the need to recognize and incorporate social justice issues and action into all our efforts. In this way, we aim to counter the social injustices created by climate change and mitigate the effects of climate change in ways that also promote and enhance social justice.
We are committed to working for climate justice by:
- Actively acknowledging that we work and live on unceded Mi’kmaw territory. Indigenous peoples are disproportionately excluded from decision-making processes that directly affect their communities;
- Challenging environmental racism, which we define as the disproportionate location of toxic facilities and other environmental hazards near to racialized communities, Indigenous communities, and the working poor, the disproportionate impacts of climate change on these communities, and the exclusion of these communities from decision-making processes;
- Advocating for the concerns and needs of vulnerable populations (e.g. people with disabilities, elderly people, women and children);
- Actively acknowledging the gendered elements of climate change, wherein women are disproportionately affected, and also play a disproportionately critical role in climate change adaptation and mitigation actions;
- Building genuine relationships with the people in these communities named above, who are on the front lines of climate injustice, and including their perspectives in our projects and campaigns;
- Working toward alternatives to the systems of power that despoil the earth and create social and economic inequality;
- Confronting climate change in ways that also move our economic and social systems in more equitable directions;
- Affirming that environmental protection and economic prosperity can support each other;
- Supporting social justice movements in our communities and beyond; and
- Committing ourselves to constant learning and relearning about climate justice.
Toward respectful allyship
We recognize that many groups in Nova Scotia, especially Indigenous groups and grassroots organizations, are also working for climate justice. Our ongoing relationships with allies in anti-poverty and social justice movements provide many opportunities to learn, share guidance, and establish mutual values.
We are committed to seeking common ground with new and sometimes unlikely allies. We recognize that the Ecology Action Centre is uniquely positioned and privileged within the climate justice movement, and we are committed to using that unique position and privilege to make space for front-line voices that are often marginalized. We realize that as we do this work, points of disagreement and tension may arise between us and those with whom we seek to ally ourselves. The diversity within our communities is a source of strength and depth as we build a united movement for change.
Working for climate justice means implementing the solutions for the most pressing problems facing us as a society. In order to achieve this goal, we must build alliances and relationships across all sectors of society. We invite you to join us.
The spirit and intent of this statement was endorsed by the membership of the Ecology Action Centre at its 45th Annual General Meeting on July 27th, 2016.
Agenda 2030 Sustainable Development Goals: goals 1, 7, 8 and 13 all refer to the need for inclusivity with regard to sustainable development, and Goal 13 specifically deals with climate change.
Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives Climate Justice Project, a partnership between the CCPA and the University of British Columbia, addresses climate policy from a social justice perspective: “We consider the social and economic effects of climate change, and we acknowledge that climate change affects people differently, depending on their position in society.”
ENRICH Project on Environmental Racism: The Environmental Noxiousness, Racial Inequities & Community Health Project is a collaborative community-based research and engagement project on environmental racism in Mi’kmaq and African Nova Scotian communities.
The Women's Global Call for Climate Justice is a global campaign organized collectively by a group of regionally diverse women’s rights and feminist organizations, brought together by the urgent need for just action on climate change.