On the erroneous belief of understanding the arrival point of development

Are “developed countries” deluding others or themselves?


Ryan Murphy (2010): Eat Pray Love

Diligent students of Economics might wonder what a scene from a Julia Roberts movie and the Italian expression “dolce far niente” have to do with development. Having been an Economics student myself confronted with heavy loads of neoclassical and neoliberalism theory, I would like to shed some light on the coherence of the aforementioned from a new point of view.

When researching definitions of “development”, one encounters numerous versions with rather diverse quintessences. For the purpose of this blog post I would like to concentrate on the following interpretation by the G8 of development as “… a strong, dynamic, open and growing global economy“. This choice is not one taken out of agreement, but one that tries to focus on the pivotal assertion that still drives the development discussion today. It is a discussion that is dominated by only a few parties, namely the Western nations 1, and it is directed if not to a single pathway of development at least to a single arrival point: consumerism. Post-development thinkers, such as Wolfgang Sachs, refer to the 1949 inauguration speech of Harry S. Truman, 33rd President of the United States, as the corner stone of the first world hegemony in development. In this inauguration speech Truman proclaimed:

“[…] we must embark on a bold new program […] for the improvement and growth of underdeveloped areas. […] Their economic life is primitive and stagnant. […] Greater production is the key to prosperity and peace.”

By coining the term “underdeveloped areas”, Truman constructed a hierarchical system that imposed a materialistic Western lifestyle, an “American World Dream”, as the ultimate goal of development on the rest of the world. On the verge of the Cold War, it was a strategic move to demand allegiance of the decolonizing countries of the third world to the first world reinforcing its supremacy against the communist-socialist bloc. US economist W.W. Rostow argued in his 1960 “The Stages of Economic Growth: A Non-Communist Manifesto” that with the right development assistance of capital and technology all countries would eventually converge to the ultimate stage of development, “high mass consumption”, from which the USA had already emerged from.

Largely concealing the fact that this prevailing notion of development is socially constructed and is an ideological concept generating power for the first world, it has found its way into the syllabi of leading universities in the form of varying development theories and it has successfully been perpetuated from there on. As a response to the failure of “improving the life of the masses”, development policies shifted repeatedly during the last 60 years: from growth orientation over poverty alleviation towards the aggressive neo-liberal policies of the Washington Consensus 2 implemented by the Structural Adjustment Programmes by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in the 1980s, when debt levels and aid-dependency spiked (Moyo, 2010, p. 20-21).

Despite the failure to advance development, it “… had achieved the status of a certainty in the social imaginary” (Escobar,1995, p.5) in such a way that even the opponents of capitalism looked for alternative ways to develop, rather than questioning the construct of development and its arrival point itself. This mistake is equally reflected in the different ways and the evolution of how development has been measured ranging from purely economic indices that depict economic growth (e.g. gross national income per capita, gross domestic product) or defining the percentage of people living below the poverty line 3 to multidimensional indicators of human development such as the New Human Development Index (2010) of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The latter include factors such as life expectancy, birth rates, literacy, years of schooling and income, which again play into the hands of the already known development front runners. Despite the creation of hierarchies and the homogenisation of “under-developed countries”, I believe that the biggest mistake herein lies in the assumption to know the arrival point of development, which in turn leaves little necessity, but also little freedom for the front runners to change.

From a Western perspective, what assures us in the end that we objectively chose the right path to development? Based on national footprint data from the Global Footprint Network, Tim De Chant calculated that at least 4.1 worlds would be needed in order for 7 billion people to live an average American lifestyle 4. Luckily we only have one world. So, if the development myth of the last 60 years neither has worked nor has been proven to be a realistic vision for the entire world at all, has it brought any good for the countries that reached the “top of the ladder”?

Screen Shot 2016-01-11 at 23.06.47

Source: Illustration © 2012 Tim De Chant, Data from Global Footprint Network

Aristotle firstly described that happiness (eudaimonia 5) is the ultimate end for all human activities and all activities are therefore only means to pursuing happiness, not ends in themselves. It is enticing to assume that if there could possibly be a universal goal for development, it could only be the pursuit of happiness. Despite the fact that the Unites States had already recognised precisely this as an inalienable right in their Declaration of Independence in 1776, it took over 200 years for happiness to take center stage in the broader discourse about development. In 2006, the New Economics Foundation introduced the Happy Planet Index (HPI), which measures “the extent to which countries deliver long, happy, sustainable lives for the people that live in them”. Four years later, the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network followed with the first World Happiness Report (2012). Attempting to measure happiness on a global scale, six factors are being used: GDP per capita, healthy years of life expectancy, social support, trust, perceived freedom to make life decisions, and generosity. Critics of the past approaches to development might favour this new course and feel vindicated by the fact that the report highlighted the circumstance that “despite strong economic growth” happiness had stagnated in the USA since the 1950s (Helliwell & Layard & Sachs, 2012, p.61). It would be hypocritical, however, to incautiously declare happiness as the new panacea for development and it might result in making the same mistake this post is trying to highlight in the first place. The following should explain how the newest debate of development is still caught up in its initial mistake.

Screen Shot 2016-01-11 at 02.58.45

Source: Happy Planet Index, Map for Experienced Well-Being 6

The initial development debate described high mass consumption as the arrival point of development and with it a set of policies was created by first world countries that allowed for interventions in “poorer countries” that were seldom altruistic. In contrast, the theoretical beauty of defining happiness as the ultimate arrival point of development is that happiness in its philosophical sense is something utterly subjective, a self- determined measure of achieving what one wants in life — whatever that be and by whatever means this can be achieved. But it seems rather naive to believe that the concept of happiness is not strongly subject to ideological contextualisation and that we actually open up the way to a freely open discussion about “development”. I dare to raise the question whether the attempt to measure happiness using constructed proxies such as generosity destroys the exact justification of the pursuit of happiness as the only universally favourable concept of development: subjectivity. Does it not declare the “status of certainty” 7 of just another constructed arrival point of development despite being barely less ideologically biased than the previous development agendas? Is the pursuit of happiness a new “wolf in sheep’s clothing” to perpetuate the hegemony of a few countries?

To refer back to the introduction of this article, I believe that in many Western cultures we are indoctrinated that happiness is achieved by increased economic productivity, efficiency and consumerism. Forced onto society with the help of vast quantities of advertisement, this absolutely fails the liberal definition of happiness, but helps to ensure the economic system from within. By making happiness measurable and comparable, the only thing we achieve is giving a new name to an old strategy.

In the first World Happiness Report of 2012, American Economist Jeffrey Sachs successfully describes the phenomenon of “the ills of modern life” (Helliwell & Layard & Sachs, 2012, p. 3-4) such as obesity, smoking, diabetes and depression and calls them “disorders of development”. The subsequent report in 2013 promisingly even devoted a whole chapter to mental illness “as the main cause of unhappiness”, but I believe that it disappointed in two facts: Firstly, the report states that “…the large majority of persons with a mental disorder reside in low- and middle-income countries of the world” (Helliwell & Layard & Sachs, 2013, p. 41). However, the report then follows with data from the World Health Survey describing depression rates by groups of countries showing the following results: high-income countries 7.1%, upper middle-income 7.6%, lower middle- income 6.4% and low-income 6.0%. It seems that the initial statement is therefore not coherent with the findings of this study, but tries to reinforce the economic hierarchy constructed at the historical beginning of the development debate. My statement should in no way question the existence of equal importance of mental illnesses in the “developing countries”, but rather suggest a perceptual bias in the interpretation. Secondly and most importantly though, the World Happiness Report 2013 defines risk factors for mental illness such as loneliness, bereavement or a low self-esteem. Despite briefly explaining the problem of under-treatment of mental illnesses and introducing effective ways for treatment, the report does not question at all what causes or favours the risk factors of mental illness to originate or to increase. I believe that the World Happiness Report capitulates to the past development approach and does not reflect sufficiently on the possible influence of systemic errors in the contribution to mental illnesses and therefore reduced happiness.

Like other development approaches before, the pursuit of happiness in the ascribed way is looking for remedies to problems that are caused by a system that the approach itself tries to uphold, because dealing with the actual cause of the problem would most likely require a change in that same system. The initial movie scene from “Eat, Pray, Love” should surely not be used as a serious reference, but it puts in a nutshell what from a societal point of view is starting to be recognised in different movements: We live in a world where happiness is imposed to come from economic wealth and in which technology helps us to become more and more efficient and time saving in what we do. But instead of directing this newly achieved time towards things that essentially would make us happy, we use the time to become even more productive and more busy. Sadly, “dolce far niente”, the sweetness of doing nothing, became socially unacceptable in many contexts.

Ultimately, I wonder if followers of movements that try to “slow down life” and reconnect it to real terms can teach us anything about development? The only fact that it can hopefully support is that the assumption to know a generalised ending point of development is an erroneous belief. Or did Rostow actually expect the emergence of a social group that would prefer to be modern traditionalists rather than pure modernists?

1  The “first world” or “the West” describes a group of capitalist countries aligned with the United States after World War II that were opposed to the “second world” communist-socialist countries states headed by the Union of Soviet Socialists Republic. Accordingly, the third world incorporated non-alined states.

2  The Washington Consensus are ten economic policy prescriptions developed by John Williamson that are used for the structural reform of countries in crisis.

3  In the EU the poverty line is defined as 60% of median income.

4  Highest ranked were the United Arab Emirates with an estimate of 5.4 worlds needed.

5  Aristotle described the concept of happiness in the Nicomachean Ethics.

6  Experienced well-being is assessed in the HPI using data from the Gallup World Poll, which asks respondents to imagine a ladder, where 0 represents the worst possible life and 10 the best possible life, and report the step of the ladder they feel they currently stand on.

7  Compare to Escobar, 1995.


References:

De Chant, T. (2012). If the world’s population lived like…. Available: http:// persquaremile.com/2012/08/08/if-the-worlds-population-lived-like/. Last accessed 5th January.

Escobar, A. (1995). Encountering Development: The making and unmaking of the third world. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press.

European Anti-Poverty Network. (n.d.). Poverty and Inequality in the European Union. Available: http://www.poverty.org.uk/summary/eapn.shtml. Last accessed 4th January 2016.

G8. (2001). G8: The Final Official Notice. Available: http://www.un.org/esa/ffd/themes/ g8-5.htm. Last accessed 3rd Jan, 2016.

Jefferson, T. (1776). The Declaration of Independence. Available: http://www.ushistory.org/ declaration/document/rough.htm. Last accessed 5th January.

Helliwell, J & Layard, R & Sachs, J (eds.). (2012). World Happiness Report. New York: The Earth Institute, Columbia University.

Helliwell, J & Layard, R & Sachs, J (eds.). (2013). World Happiness Report 2013. New York: UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network.

Helliwell, J & Layard, R & Sachs, J (eds.). (2015). World Happiness Report 2015. New York: Sustainable Development Solutions Network.

Moyo, D. (2010). Dead Aid: Why aid is not working and how there is another way for Africa. London: Penguin Books.

Rostow, W W. (1960). The Stages of Economic Growth: A Non-Communist Manifesto. 3rd ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Sachs, W. (2010). The Development Dictionary: A Guide to Knowledge as Power. 2nd ed. London: Zed Books.

Taylor, C. (2006). Aristotle: Nicomachean Ethics: Books II-IV. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

The New Economics Foundation. (2006). The Happy Planet Index. Available: http://www.happyplanetindex.org. Last accessed 8th Jan 2016.

Todaro, M & Smith, S. (2012). Economic Development. 11th ed. Boston: Pearson Education.

Truman, H. (1949). Inaugural Address. Available: http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/? pid=13282. Last accessed 3rd Jan, 2016.


Climate Change: now or never

Scientific evidence for warming of the climate system is unequivocal.

 

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

 

Climate change is real, even if nowadays there are still people that refuse to believe that this is happening even if we have clear evidences of this
You and I are burning too many fossil fuels. We are the only agents who can turn it around. That means using alternative energy sources. If each and every one of us takes action, then we can avoid the above desolate scene which could haunt our children and grandchildren.

When we talk about climate change we are not talking about something theoretical we are talking about a process with evidences and the evidence for rapid climate change is compellin-Warming oceans, global temperature rise, shrinking ice sheets, declining Arctic sea ice, glacial retreat, extreme events, ocean acidification, decreased snow cover.
Climate change not only affect the environment, climate change affect all of us, affect our economy, society, etc.
We just have to consider what is going to happened when in 2050 the population reach the 9 billion people in the world. How are we going to feed this amount of people without destroying the planet and ourselves in the process.

As Ban Ki-moon´s said:

There is no “Plan B” for action as there is no “Planet B.”

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We need to care about climate change, what it is more important we need to act about climate change. We reach a point where thinking about that it is not even enough, we need to star acting about that and protect our planet

As Romina Picolotti, President of Fundación Cedha said:

“My message is: Do whatever you can, small or big, to help us fight against climate change!”

Big or small everything helps, it is not inly a matter for governments and countries, even if they must be aware about this and act in an effective and useful way. All of us as citizens of the world can help .

As Michael Jacobs, Senior Advisor of Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations in Paris (IDDRI) said:

 “Acting on it brings us all kinds of good things. It brings us jobs, livelihoods and profits.”

Care about climate change and the most important thing acting about that it is not something bad or a complication.

I strongly believe we are still on time to slow down climate change and look for a solution, several organizations, governments and countries are forming alliances in order to fight against it.

Climate change is real, is affecting all of us and in every sector. We are part of the problem but also part of the solution.

If we do nothing what will be left?. We need to act

 

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Why should me/you/she/he/we/they care about climate change?

ed8844f0beefcf338a7d7e2a3a36240cIt has been confirmed that humans are 95% responsible for climate change. We should care about this because it affects everyone, it does not care about race, religion, location or economical power. The problem is that most of the time, the people that are causing climate change don’t see or feel the real consequences of it and sadly the most affected ones are vulnerable people that have contributed less to this issue.

People constantly complain about gas and oil companies, but still consume what they produce. I don’t think that to reduce our impact in global warming we should start making drastic sacrifices, but I do believe we should begin to change our lifestyle starting by changing the way we consume, choose and dispose the things we buy.

We arrive to the never ending paradigm about, who is responsible for climate change? The consumer? The government? The companies/industries? Who should be addressing this subject?

Any answer is correct, but what we should be focusing now is not pointing fingers on who is responsible because we all are, the important thing is to take action.

We have to work together, starting by making the consumers aware of the problem so they start demanding products and services with low or non GHG (greenhouse gases) emissions that contribute to climate change.

On the other hand, some governments and NGOs are doing their part for climate change through the Paris Agreement. They have set the goal to prevent the temperature to rice 1.5°C. I strongly believe that governments should start making new policies or taking mandatory measures to stop the pollution. From the side of the industries some of them are starting to follow the tendency of low carbon economies to decrease their GHG emissions, but more companies will join this movement if costumers start demanding this and if the governments implement new measures to regulate them.

I hope that soon we all collaborate because time is not on our side. I can imagine a society united for one single goal for the wellbeing of the planet and its habitants.

I recently read a phrase form Eduardo Galeano an Uruguayan activist and writer that had an impact in me:

“Utopia lies at the horizon. When I draw nearer by two steps, it retreats two steps. No matter how far I go, I never reach it. What, then, is the purpose of utopia? It is to cause us to advance.”

Change is possible


Climate change in my own words

Climate change in my own words

Human being couldn´t exist without the planet, but at the same time human being can put in danger his own planet as it is known nowadays. The consequences of our behaviour as specie not only affect us, but to all species lives in the earth, and those to come, our children, our

future.

Climate change is the biggest problem that the human being have to face in their history, a threaten that could cause millions of deaths, disasters and

damage.

I really believe that climate change will be the problem that will join us as specie again, where economy will be at the serve of the society in the fight against a problem that if is not solve, it

won´t be.

Climate change is the change that challenge us to

(If we) change.

http://incolors.club/collectiongdwn-global-warming-pictures-for-drawing-competition.htm

Synthesis between human being and the earth.


Why should we care about climate change?

Climate change is a phenomenon which will affect future generations and not us, right? Many people live with the misconception that we can continue to emit greenhouse gases and deplete the earth’s natural resources without any negative consequences. When in reality there is a myriad of climate change impacts affecting nearly every person on Earth today; from alterations in temperatures, extreme weather events to world-wide food production reductions and food scarcity.

Climate change owing to anthropogenic sources has the biggest negative consequences towards vulnerable animals, delicate ecosystems and poverty stricken regions. A voice needs to be given to those in poverty who cannot communicate widely enough the devastating effects that climate change is having on agricultural crop yield and water quality. Changes in global weather conditions is giving way to an increase of vector borne diseases and malaria in poverty stricken countries such as India.

Not only do we need to care about vulnerable people, but by taking action to combat climate change today we can avoid costs for tomorrow. Reducing emissions of greenhouse gases will improve air quality standards, which are posing a huge health risk through respiratory and cardiovascular illnesses. The air pollution in China, a leading manufacturer of the world’s electrical, clothing and plastic products, has astronomical levels. Beijing has even reported air pollution concentrations 36 times above acceptable levels.1

china-air-pollution

Investment into renewable energy technologies is growing every day, seen as the energy provider for the future as the earth’s resources are being increasingly depleted, helped by a growing competitiveness over coal with falling technology prices. We cannot go backwards on this topic, despite sceptical politicians, as the general public we must care about climate change and make our voices heard. We need to enact concrete actions to continue reducing carbon dioxide and methane emissions, whilst phasing out harmful hydrofluorocarbons (HFC). Despite the obvious benefits from reducing climate change it can also create jobs, financial growth, reduce poverty, help with education and improve health.  Not only does it make environmental sense, but there are also sound economical reasoning to care about climate change.

References

1Soft Pedia (2016), http://news.softpedia.com/news/Microsoft-Can-Forecast-China-Air-Pollution-with-Windows-Phone-App-New-Website-483998.shtml#sgal_0 accessed 12/02/2017

2 China imagehttp://news.softpedia.com/news/Microsoft-Can-Forecast-China-Air-Pollution-with-Windows-Phone-App-New-Website-483998.shtml#sgal_0, accessed 12/02/2017v


A Moment of Thought.

 

In a world filled with division and inequality let climate change be a way to unite. We need to fight this battle together, there are many races, religions, believes and values but there is only one earth, an earth which is sick. When thinking of a cure, I believe the cure is knowledge. We need to spread knowledge and not just knowledge by itself, we need to spread concern.

I often wonder how to get people to feel involved to realize that this is an issue that concerns every single human being living on this earth. The reason I got to thinking of this is because I myself have problems realizing the significance of the problem, changing my attitude to contribute in solving the problem and in empowering others to do so.

climate-change-readingThrough my master course on and interest in sustainable development I am well aware of the negative effects we human beings have on climate change but I have trouble translating this awareness into more concern and action. People who are concerned about something or someone they love become more powerful and incentivised to save and protect those things and
ones we love. This realisation and the fact that I am learning more and more about climate change each day is why I believe knowledge and awareness is our greatest and most effective medicene to cure the negative effects of climate change that have been infecting the earth.

I am 25 now and believe the things I am learning now should become more common knowledge. The saying “the kids are the future” is a saying I have heard many times and I believe this saying is of key importance. It is essential knowledge on climate change is to be taught to children starting from a young age in both their upbringing and through education.

One thing is for sure,  the negative effects of climate change are a fact, the kids are the future and these same kids are the doctors who can use their medicine to cure our earth.

 

Yours truly,

 

Tim Wierks


Why should we care?

As society we have reach the point where the majority of people is conscious that Climate Change is mainly caused by human activity therefore we are all responsible. Despite this, the efforts made by governments and society itself are still not enough to mitigate the emissions and even less, the current and future consequences of raising temperatures on development goals.

Most people think about nature and biodiversity when they hear the term ¨Climate Change¨ relating it to ¨them¨ (animals, trees…) but not to an ¨us¨ (human beings, inequity…) which shows that as a society we haven´t realize that Climate Change is not only an environmental issue but also is related to 3 main aspects: economic growth, inequity/poverty and political instability.

  1. Economic growth: According to the Stern report, climate change consequences could cost between 3% up to 20% of the global GDP in the worst scenario. At the same time, it will affect local economies like Middle East and the Sahel where according to the World Bank, the water stress could cause water scarcity putting in risk 6% of the GDP by 2050.
  2. Inequity and poverty: unmitigated climate change could reduce the average income of a person up to a 23 percent in 2100, specially in the poorest countries where in the 40% of the poorest of them, the reduction could be up to 75%. It is also prognosticated that the Climate Change will mainly affect poor people since they do not have the resources to adapt or because their livings depend on activities that will be negatively impacted like agriculture (up to 122 million more people worldwide could be living in extreme poverty by 2030)
  3. Political instability: According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) an average of 21,5 million people has been displaced yearly since 2008 due to climate-weather issues. This will put more pressure to migration policies, therefore will require international intervention and social inclusion policies.

 It is time to move forward in the climate change mitigation path by not only carrying about the environmental impacts of it seeing it as an external issue. But being aware about the actual and future consequences that could put in risk what has been built until now and the efforts made to reach a sustainable development, end of poverty the improvement of people´s conditions or in general what has been stablished in the Sustainable Development Goals. We are all part of the problem; we are all walking in a tightrope then we are all part of the solution.

 

 

Bibliography:

 

World Economic Forum ¨The Global Risk Report 2017¨ 12th edition.

Retreived 9/02/2017 from

http://www3.weforum.org/docs/GRR17_Report_web.pdf

Maclay K (21/10/15) Berkeley News ¨Study founds that climate change will reshape global economy¨. Retrieved 9/02/2017 from

http://news.berkeley.edu/2015/10/21/study-finds-climate-change-will-reshape-global-economy/

Provost C (17/10/16) The Guardian ¨ Climate change could drive 122m more people into extreme poverty by 2030¨ Retrieved 9/02/2017 from:

https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2016/oct/17/climate-change-could-drive-122m-more-people-into-extreme-poverty-by-2030-un-united-nations-report

Carnemark C (6/02/1015) World Bank ¨ Climate change complicates efforts to end poverty ¨ Retrieved 9/02/2017 from:

http://www.worldbank.org/en/news/feature/2015/02/06/climate-change-complicates-efforts-end-poverty

 

 

 

 


How to Make People Care About Climate Change

Americans know about climate change, but a majority currently don’t care much about it.  According to a Gallup Poll from March 2016, 57% of Americans do not perceive global warming as a serious threat.  However, 65% of Americans believe global warming is caused by human activity (compared to 97% of scientists3), and 59% believe global warming has already begun2.  This gap between understanding global warming is happening, but not believing that global warming is a serious threat to our lives, is an indicator that we are not communicating about climate change and global warming effectively.

gallup-poll

 

It may be the case that posing the negative impacts of climate change as a global problem deters people from wanting to address the issue, as it is outside of their circle of influence.  Therefore, individuals might not consider the threats of climate change, or how their individual actions can help in the fight against global warming.  The term itself – “global warming”, implies global implications, and can demotivate individuals.

It is true that on a global level, climate change results in warmer temperatures that causes sea level to rise, changes in perception, and increased severity of storms.  But these changes have harmful and negative impacts on the local and personal level.  The negative impacts on the local and personal level is why individuals should be concerned about climate change, and a few are as follows:

If we can communicate climate change and global warming in a more local, personal and tangible way, perhaps more people would care about climate change.  Then individuals might be willing to change their everyday actions to combat climate change, or support government and policy that addresses climate change mitigation and adaptation.   But if we do not address this communication problem, many Americans will continue business as usual, until it is too late and they start feeling the impacts of climate change in their everyday lives.


Sources

  1. Jones, Jeffrey (March 2014) “In U.S., Most Do Not See Global Warming as Serious Threat” Gallup, Retrieved February 9, 2017 http://www.gallup.com/poll/167879/not-global-warming-serious-threat.aspx?g_source=CATEGORY_CLIMATE_CHANGE&g_medium=topic&g_campaign=tiles
  2. Jones, Jeffrey and Saad, Lydia (March 2016) “U.S. Concern About Global Warming at Eight-Year High” Gallup, Retrieved February 9, 2017 http://www.gallup.com/poll/190010/concern-global-warming-eight-year-high.aspx?g_source=CATEGORY_CLIMATE_CHANGE&g_medium=topic&g_campaign=tiles
  3. Global Climate Change, Vital Signs of the Planet (2017) “Scientific consensus: Earth’s climate is warming” Nasa http://climate.nasa.gov/scientific-consensus/
  4. United States Environmental Protection Agency, EPA (2017), Climate Change, Retrieved February 5, 2017 https://www.epa.gov/climatechange
  5. US Global Change Research Program (2014) US National Climate Assessment, Retrieved February 5, 2017 http://nca2014.globalchange.gov/report
  6. Institute of Politics (2016) Election 2016: Do Americans Care About Climate Change? University of Chicago, Retrieved February 9, 2017 http://politics.uchicago.edu/news/entry/watch-do-americans-care-about-climate-change

Climate change: responsibility and vulnerability

Climate change is our problem; we have the obligation to solve it. It is our duty to climate-changetake care of our own generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. I care about climate change because I care about our generation and future generations, I care about the best quality of life for the future, I care about the human race.

Climate change is not contributing to a better place for human beings to live in. It is a global problem, it is a social problem, it is a poverty problem, it is a hunger problem, it is a health problem, it is an equality problem, but more then everything it is a commitment problem.

The biggest problem about getting people to care about climate change is the fact that is is such a subtle, complex and slippery and a far to big of issue for people to make sense out of it. In order to fight climate change, everyone should start caring. Everyone should find an aspect that is close to their hearts, this will make it more tangible. The issue most closely to my heart and why I care about climate change, is that it carries a fundamental gap between responsibility and vulnerability.

Unfortunately, the people least responsible for climate change are in general the most vulnerable to it. We see an increase in extreme weather patterns that result in problems for the most vulnerable people in the world. UNHCR claims that since 2009 22.5 million people have been displaced due to climate change. Displacement linked to climate change is not just a problem for the future, it is happening now. As a result, these climate refugees still do not meet the refugee definition:

“A refugee is someone who is unable or unwilling to return to their country of origin owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion.”[1]

Consequently, climate refugees are not well protected by international laws and agreements. Moreover, the international trend of fearing immigrants and refugees, fed by politicians such as Trump, Mary Le Pen and Geert Wilders, does not contribute to a stable international environment for these vulnerable displaced people.

 

There is an essential need for a more tolerant international tendency towards displaced people. It is an inevitable reality in a changing world where climate change is happening, that the numbers of displaced people will only increase. Moreover, the huge gap between responsibility and vulnerability should be addressed. No region is immune to climate change, but the risks of displacement are mostly for vulnerable countries with high exposure to climate change. Countries such as Somalia and Bangladesh.

We should care about climate change because it is affecting the world of our generation, but even more the world of tomorrows’ generation.

[1] http://www.unhcr.org/3b66c2aa10


Because yes. I do care.

Why should we care about Climate Change? Why should I care…? or better: why do I care about Climate Change?

9a6c577484bb851c56eee722647e38f9

“Climate Change” is the new expression in mouth of every politician, activists or aware citizen. And is not because of green fashion. Is because this combination of words gives us a framework where some explanation can be found, to those who care about society, inequity, hunger, poverty, nature, biodiversity.

Besides a natural process, it has been already shown that anthropogenic global warming has a huge responsibility on making Climate Change variations faster and bigger. The expensive worldwide processes of international agreements, strategies, plans and cooperation between leaders and governments must focus their economies in new models to be sustainable, while decreasing the earth´s temperature, and also closing the gap between big industries and vulnerable species (human, vegetation, animals).

Because is not just about Climate Change mitigation itself. When ACTING on solving CC IMPACTS, we are dealing with development solutions for other interrelated issues as well: improve technologies in agriculture to mitigate emissions that can also decrease hunger, advance on renewable energies to stop burning fuels that also facilitate energy access to isolated communities, monitor weather event to design strategies and reach universal water access.

So, yes. I care about Climate Change because at the end, “change” means something new. “Change” is the possibility of doing things in a different way. And from a sustainable perspective, “Climate Change” might be the perfect new framework to start working in a different way, understanding that if we want to continue living in this beautiful planet earth, we might start respecting nature carrying capacity.


Why should we care about climate change?

Climate change is not for believers any longer. It is happening –actually, it´s been happening for a while- but now it is proved and known that climate is changing due to human activity. Ignorance is no longer an excuse.

We are more than seven billion people in the world. Among us we are all very different, but there is something we all have to do: eat. The Spanish newspaper El País published last January the article “Eight men have the same wealth as the poorest half of mankind“. Hopefully this headline drafts the idea of how irregular the distribution of wealth is but, to be more specific, one eight of these seven billion people lives in hunger.

Due to clime change, many ecosystems have lost their resilience, and the farming system cannot cope with this situation any longer. Sadly, the most affected by these situations are the poorest –especially women and children- but the consequences also reaches developed countries.

According to the World Health Organization, the urban population in 2014 accounted for 54% of the total global population. This places with high density of population have seen over the last decades a drastic increase of pollution which has affected the air quality and so, in the health of its inhabitants.

Climate change not only triggers food insecurity and health due to pollution, it is also able to spread diseases and create natural disasters. Once more, those in a weaker situation are the most affected, but this also affects developed countries through epidemics, hurricanes, draughts or extreme temperatures.

After all, climate change will affect everything and everyone, so we need to take action for a number of reasons:

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