Issue 26, Climate Crisis

Editorial

It has taken nearly a century of research and data collection to convince scientists that human activity could cause global climate change. By the late 1980s, most scientists were starting to agree that human activity was a primary driver of the increased greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change. But at that time, climate change’s effects on the globe, and human life especially, felt as distant as the polar bear standing on a floating sheet of ice in a melting Arctic. Today, however, it is an irrefutable fact: not only is there consensus among scientists, but most people around the world agree that climate change is a human-generated crisis. That crisis is now on people’s doorsteps: as uncontrollable fires, increasingly violent hurricanes and cyclones, water shortages and excessive floods, destroyed crops and food scarcities, extinction of species and acidification of oceans. Epidemiologists and biologists warn that we will see more pandemics as the destruction of biodiversity causes viruses and other infectious diseases to jump from one species to another and to humans. The situation couldn’t be more urgent for humans.

If the warning bells have been tolling for decades, why has it taken so long for us to act? One reason is that climate change became politicized. As a result, scientists’ warnings have not been heeded; concerned citizens – including our youth whom we are supposed to protect – are ridiculed as alarmists; and politicians are swayed by short-term agendas and re-election campaigns. The politicization of climate change also prevents countries and politicians from genuine collaboration, as each nation vies for power and a higher standard of living.

Our epistemic order as people-based societies, organized in a system of hierarchy between humans and nature and between groups of humans, also hinders effective climate action. In this order, humans are separate from nature, and the environment (animals, diseases, weather) is something to control, decimate, or shelter from. As “civilized,” we are superior to everything else on this planet, and we compete for access to and control of natural resources. When it becomes harder to manage the multiple effects of this climate crisis, we will likely witness wealthier nations guard against climate refugees perceived to be competitors of “our” diminished resources. We will fortify our walls and build them taller, even against our own citizen neighbors. Epistemic norms inhibit us from imagining alternative ways of being in this world.

The articles in this issue on Climate Crisis delve into the complex factors behind our climate action hesitancy, the disproportionate effect of climate change on the Global South, the short-sightedness of governments and many development programs, the competing goals of economic development and climate action, and the hard work that indigenous communities are willing to do to protect the environment and their communities. Several articles analyze agendas of countries participating in the COP 26 global climate summit in Glasgow, and others challenge us to examine our basic assumptions and behaviors to meet this emergency head-on.

This issue includes several researchers and experts who have devoted their careers to studying the environment and climate change. We have experts on the politics of climate action in China, US, India, Bangladesh, Norway, New Zealand, and the UK, and writers focusing on Africa and Japan. When planning this issue, we were committed to highlighting the voices and perspectives of people most impacted and yet most marginalized by society’s political elite. Although we came short of our goals, we are incredibly honored to share strong articles about farmers in Bangladesh, Māori in New Zealand, Indigenous communities’ environmental knowledge and initiatives, as well as superb articles by youth, keenly aware of the impact this climate crisis has on their futures.

While all Shuddhashar’s magazine themes – racism, feminism, authoritarianism, or religious extremism, for example – are critical issues for our time, the climate crisis is undoubtedly the most urgent global threat. This crisis, and how we respond, will define us as humans. For the sake of our youth, there is nothing more important than this.

The 26th issue of Shuddhashar on Climate Crisis is published just as the 26th Conference of the Parties (COP26) begins in Glasglow. This climate summit will be attended by countries that signed the 1994 treaty of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. We must hold those countries accountable for the future of all of us – human and non-human – who inhabit this earth.

Extractive Histories and Decolonial Resistance: A Cultural Response to Climate Justice

The climate crisis is the inheritance from the legacies of colonialism, the dispossession of first nations, the pipeline infrastructure which cuts across communities, the divide between the animate and the inert, the marching force of capitalist progress turning life into a commodity. As Kathryn Yusoff’s account of geological history in A Billion Black Anthropocene’s or …

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Rising sea levels and extreme hot weather highlight a once in a lifetime opportunity to tackle the climate crisis

From the stark warnings of the IPCC report to the fossil fuel greenwashers and a Green New Deal, Lee Burkwood analyses what the challenges and opportunities we face as a planet to tackle climate change.   The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report is a reminder of the climate crisis we face. The report …

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Reflections upon a crisis, A Norwegian-Indian infused perception on climate change

I experience climate change mostly from a Norwegian perspective, a small and mountainous country with a population of just above five million, where the majority enjoy a comfortable middle-class lifestyle with abundant natural resources, a functioning welfare state, and close to a hundred years of absence of war and unrest. This is very much unlike …

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Combating climate change via a just transition

The global climate summit, COP 26, will discuss climate gas reduction and climate financing. But who carries most responsibility as countries get started at a green transition?  What should we demand from both the global north and the global south? And could nature-based solutions be sped up? These are interesting questions to be addressed as …

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Fire to Fight Fire: Setting a Match to California’s Growing Wildland Fire Problem

On August 18, 2020, Ryan Masters was sitting in his home in the Santa Cruz Valley. Outside his window, the ominous orange glow of fire grew ever larger. Two days earlier, he had woken up to the sight of Bonny Doon, just two canyons away, burning to the ground. Now he waited, checking in with …

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Hayao Miyazaki’s Call to Action: Human and Environment Interaction in Studio Ghibli Films

For many members of younger generations, it’s hard to imagine what the world was like even 50 or 60 years ago. When things like wildfires in California become a yearly occurrence, replacing the beautiful West Coast fall, and coastlines continue to disappear due to increased flooding, it can be difficult to remember that this isn’t …

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No prize for guessing which countries stand in the back of the line as the climate crisis escalates

Since spring 2020, we have talked about vaccine inequity as it becomes more and more evident how richer countries are supplying their own population first and foremost. «Vaccine nationalism» is a term spreading globally. WHO director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has since warned against COVID-19 ‘vaccine nationalism’, urging support for fair access to vaccines for all. …

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