The unexpected link between climate change, biodiversity loss and inequality
Speaking to Social Work Today ahead of her keynote session at The People’s Summit, Najma Mohamed, Policy Director at the Green Economy Coalition, says that climate change and inequality are ‘two sides of the same coin’ and must be tackled in tandem.
Does the world need a new social contract? That will be the question posed at the People’s Global Summit by Oliver Greenfield, Convenor, and Najma Mohamed, Policy Director at the Green Economy Coalition.
As social workers and related professionals, readers will be acutely familiar with the crisis of inequality, but it might not be apparent how closely this is linked to climate change and how one affects the other.
“These crises are on the same two sides of the coin,” says Najma.
“If you look at groups within society within our communities, it would be the most vulnerable and affected by the climate and environmental crises.”
Najma says that we’re already beginning to see the effects of climate change worsening conditions for workers globally who are very dependent on stable and healthy eco-systems involving agriculture and fisheries.
However, the problem runs much deeper than the physical effects of climate change. Najma warns that the worsening climate and environmental crisis means we could stand to lose so many of the social gains made in the last few decades – such as access to education.
“The United Nations Human Rights Commission calls the climate crisis a human rights crisis. It’s going to roll back those hard-won rights that we’ve won and still need to fight for, leaving the most vulnerable even more vulnerable.
“[We’re] finding already the pandemic is affecting the most vulnerable - women and girls losing out on access to education - you often think what will climate and environmental change do to that.”
“It’s going to impact health, education, poverty, work. Every national priority for every government faces risks from the climate environmental crisis. To think of the crisis of inequality and crisis of climate change as being separate is a false dichotomy.”
“Climate change won’t stop at borders, so it’s a global problem that will require us to come up with a global solution.”
The issues will be discussed at an international four-day summit, bringing together individuals and communities, people with lived experience, alongside global organisations to discuss and distil shared local and global values, policies and practices for ‘a new eco-social world that leaves no one behind’. For many at the conference, including Najma, the pandemic was a catalyst for dramatic social change.
“I think COVID-19 unmasked how deeply these structural inequalities existed in our communities and societies, and showed us that our economies are not working for the majority of people. One always looks at this moment of crisis with workers, as the most vulnerable are pushed back into poverty and into vulnerability.
“We’ve seen things that have previously been impossible become possible. There were glimmers of hope during the pandemic and you can see we have the agility to make those changes. But now we ask, is the world going to carry through?”
The answer to this problem, Najma says, is to look at the social contract between citizens and state and decide if it’s fit for purpose for the challenges citizens face in the 21st century.
“We’ve heard many organisations, diverse and unusual voices, that are focusing on different dimensions of the crisis we’re facing, coming together to re-imagine the social construct. We need it for the challenges we’re facing now.”
Watch Najma Mohamed’s presentation at the People’s Global Summit on 30th June: https://newecosocialworld.com/speaker/oliver-greenfield-and-najma-mohamed/
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