Climate change experts and University of Connecticut students spoke on defining and solving climate change inequality at “Climate Justice: Conversations Across Barriers and Borders” on Friday.
The event, part of UConn’s spring 2018 Metanoia on the Environment, was moderated by UConn political science professor Dr. Prakash Kashwan and featured a discussion from multiple climate change experts, along with UConn students Rebecca Kaufman, Wawa Gatheru and Evan Fritz.
“Climate change is definitely the most formidable challenge that humanity has ever faced,” Kashwan told the audience. “When talking about facing the issue, we forget that both the causes and the consequences of climate change have implications that are very different for different groups throughout the world.”
Kashwan said the concept of climate justice centers around the fact that climate change has affected some groups of people worldwide more than others, including people of color, women and those living in poverty.
“Talking about climate justice essentially means talking about the discriminatory effects of climate change,” Kashwan said.
Kaufman told the audience though the typical definition of climate change is “the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people, regardless of race, color or income,” her idea of it differs from that definition.
“My personal understanding of it is what I see in an ideal world, which is having more women and people from indigenous communities at the table,” Kaufman said. “The people who define progress are the people who are at the table, and right now that looks like a lot of multinational corporations with a lot of money and Western countries with a lot of resources. I think it’s important that these groups are at the table because they’re the ones most affected.”
Gatheru said she believes climate justice should be seen as a social issue rather than something that can be solved solely with science.
“Climate justice to me as a concept is one that talks of inclusion,” Gatheru said. “Climate justice to me is gender justice, it’s economic justice, it’s racial justice. It’s regularly talked about as a very technical, STEM-focused concept, but we have all the technology in the world and yet we still are not solving our issue with climate, and that’s because it’s a social issue.”
Fritz spoke on his hope that a social justice movement to combat climate inequality will form.
“We need a movement to call for not only environmental justice in the technical sense, but environmental justice in the political sense,” Fritz said. “We need to build a mass movement that is fundamentally based in working people and communities of color and around their demands.”
The students concluded by speaking on the steps they hope UConn will take to improve its environmental efforts.
“UConn is known as a university at the forefront of environmental sustainability, but there’s so much that needs to be done,” Gatheru said. “There’s still work that needs to be done in making the environmental studies major more interdisciplinary, through talking about different perspectives.”
Kaufman said she hopes UConn will make environmental and social justice issues more mainstream.
“UConn is known for its environmental sustainability, but there’s no environmental and social justice aspect that is mainstreamed into our program,” Kaufman said. “If we want to be known as a sustainable university, it is important that we make environmental justice an integral part.”
Gabriella DeBenedictis is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at email@example.com.