On Stockholm+50 by Nawal Amjad
In a war-stricken, Covid-hit, increasingly poor and polarized world, climate change may undeniably be one of the many major challenges that the world faces today. However, notwithstanding its highly complex and catastrophic nature, there's nonetheless a very innate flicker of hope with us choosing to approach it. This for me is climate change's ability to revive and restore our ability to bid farewell to exceptionalism – or at least alleviate the latter to whatever ambitious, realistic levels we all can.
For now, the conversation must have been taking you through a mental rollercoaster or in simple words: would have been unconvincing. But here's the thing: regardless of how differently we identify on ethnic, racial, linguistic, geographic, demographic – and numberless other levels, our identity as children of this planet, as people of this one world, overrides our individual identities. I'm in no way undermining the dialogue-like sentence that I just wrote above, but bear with me before you are put off by how dramatic it felt.
When wars are waged either in the name of ever-changing geopolitical interests, self-identified national interests, or just any interests serving selective groups or concentrated elites – these wars are fought in the first place because a conflict serves as a basis or excuse for them. Because a division is enough to supersede basic sensibilities of humanitarianism – but with climate change, it's different.
People and countries across the world can argue on the degree of susceptibility that they face from climate change, but not at all on how they might be protected by this susceptibility in any way. Academically speaking, the Ecocentric (Deep Green), Technocentric (Light Green) approaches of pursuing environmentalism inform our thinking that whether we get on the extreme of being fully disapproving of growth or think that technology can be a panacea for lifting us of all our problems and keep on pursuing growth – both ways, we cannot in anyway escape climate change.
Paths to a Green World: The Political Economy of the Global Environment book proves how climate change does not discriminate on the grounds of someone residing in the global north or global south, someone taking refuge in being economically or technologically better off – but how rather than being exceptionalist, it will affect everyone in one way or the other – on some day or the other.
At this stage, you'd want to or most definitely have already closed the tab you had opened this article on. But if you're still here, bear with me a little because I'll try persuading you into why despite being all-devastating 'for everyone', there's still that hope I wrote about above.
The fact that climate change isn't exceptionalist, does in no way take away from the horrifying nature of it. But the inherent nature of the issue can certainly be 'approached' differently – to find that flicker of hope that can fuel our longing for a climate-secure future. The greatest example of it can even be the pandemic we're all still soldiering through. As per the study of the Zoology department of the University of Cambridge, an increase in pathogens that exacerbate such pandemics is one of the outcomes fed in by issues like climate change.
Had this pandemic not even affected the whole world or the majority of the world in the ways that it did, nor had climate change been found as its key input, regardless, the pandemic itself is enough of a proof that catastrophes do not 'discriminate' but manage to unite people – especially when their collective – and in case of climate change, 'global' existence is in question.
It doesn't matter on how deeply political it is to even choose to identify issues, people as 'global', but one thing's for sure: when climate change truly starts to alter geographies and populations (which already has to an increasingly evident extent), we'll be left with the only choice: that is to devoid ourselves of the exceptionalism we so conveniently use to avoid acting on it. The work on getting ourselves devoid of this exceptionalism is not easy – especially when catastrophes translate most on sub-national, local or indigenous levels. But in order to start working on this complex task, the approaches will have to change. One of which is to get out of this exceptionalist (read: entitled) mentality that 'climate change won't affect us’, or 'it will affect us only to such and such levels'. Solutions can be complex, getting to them may even be more complex – but they can't be lingered onto. Otherwise, we might even lose this 'flicker' of hope that we have – and so then avoidance or exceptionalism or re-approaching would all be something from the past. The narrow window of opportunity that we have today would also close. We’d better re-approach and realign now!
Nawal Amjad is a Youth Empowerment in Climate Action Platform (YECAP) Fellow.