What does climate change have to do with human rights?
In member of the National Geography Society Elizabeth Lindsey’s TED Talk, “Ancient Wisdom for a Modern World,” she claims she became an anthropologist because she, “wanted to bear witness to that which was vanishing.” She continues to tell a story about the women who raised her. She was with these women by the ocean and they told her that they knew there’d be a time that came that the world would be in trouble. Meaning the vast ocean and nature they stood around of wouldn’t be the same forever. They told Lindsey to remember the stories they told and so that is what Lindsey sought out to do.
Lindsey’s TED Talk continues with her telling of ancient wisdoms of these people. She ends with a story saying that she called one of the women who raised her to tell her about a new position she had gotten for a job and that they needed to go out and celebrate. Instead of asking all the details of her new position, the women takes her in front of the ocean and studies her. All she then asks about it is, “Will it make your heart happy?” The women who raised Lindsey did not value the same materialistic aspects our current American culture does like job promotions or new cars just to name a few. They value their land and are their happiest just with that. However, their land is vanishing before them. If our another nation decided to take away American’s job promotions or possessions, we would not hesitate in the least to consider it a violation of their rights. So why aren’t we doing the same in regards to taking away a cultures land?
Watch Lindsey’s entire TED Talk here:
The first women president of Ireland, Mary Robinson addresses this idea of climate change being an infringement of human rights in her TED Talk, “Why Climate Change Is a Threat to Human Rights.” She says that her interest with climate change began because of the impact it had on people and their rights (for example, their health, education, shelter and food just to name a few rights). She talks about whole countries on track to go out of existence because of climate change.
In a trip to Africa, she kept hearing the phrase, “Oh but things are so much worse now.” What she found out was “worse” was their climate. A woman she met there didn’t have to worry about going hungry when she was younger: they had the four seasons and knew when to harvest. But recent droughts followed by floods destroyed schools, livelihoods and harvests. If any other factor was destroying those aspects of a culture, we would be outraged on the violation of human rights.
Robinson then talks about Malawi. She informs listeners that there have been terrible floods there causing thousands of people to lose their livelihoods and 100 people were killed. The interesting thing is that the average Malawian emits 80 kg of carbon dioxide a year. However, the average American emits 17.5 metric tons. Those who are suffering don’t even have as much as an impact on the climate change but they are the ones feeling the drastic effects. This is an unfair human condition.
An image used in Robinson’s TED Talk illustrating the disproportionate emissions of pollution:
Robinson ends her talk saying that the problem ahead of us is large, but they can be solved. We need the total support of the international community and there can be seen hope. There must be change in order to not only save the climate, but save human rights.
Watch Robinson’s entire TED Talk here:
So how is Syria addressing human rights and climate issues?
With the ongoing conflict in Syria, actual action on the bettering of human rights is on the back burner. However, human rights are still on the radar as something that will be necessary for Syria’s survival post conflict. In the Geneva Talks of February 23, 2017, it is said that Syrian human rights need to be the priority amongst the UN. Ending the bombings, unlawful attacks and safety for refugees are just a few topics amongst this issue.
To obtain the proper attention human rights in Syria needs, they must make constitutional amendments and most importantly, it must be a Syrian-led process.
It is explained in the Human Watch Right’s article, “Syria: Make Human Rights Priority of Geneva Talks,” that on the agenda of addressing and changing Syrian human rights, is the drafting of a new constitution, free elections, a ceasefire, releasing war prisoners, and a complete end of civilian attacks.
Check out more details in the outline for Syrian human rights in this article:
Climate change, specifically drought, is widely thought to be one of the causes of the Syrian conflict. The drought leading up to the war created the loss of livelihoods and thus tension and migration of the Syrian people. However, climate change was not the only cause of the conflict. Instead, climate change contributed to the built up tension of the regime but did not cause it.
Alex Randall agrees that climate change was not the sole factor in the rise of the Syrian conflict in his article, “The role of climate change in the Syria crisis: how the media got it wrong”:
Though climate change is an obvious issue in Syria, as seen in forms of droughts, it is not an issue being tackled head on right now since the conflict is the main focus. However, I do think in the years to come there will, and should, be a large rise of climate protection organizations in Syria.
Main points of Noor’s “Beyond Eurocentrism”
Author Farish Noor writes in his article, “Beyond Eurocentrism: The Need For a Multicultural Understanding of Human Rights” he outlines the problems of eurocentrism and the ways we should and must respond to that.
Eurocentrism is the belief that the Western world is the superior and dominant way of life worldwide. In other words, it’s when the Western world thinks that their way is the global way. For example, Americans believing that Coca-Cola, an inherently western thing, is a global product is Eurocentric.
Political cartoon on eurocentrism:
Noor says that for countries to protect themselves against eurocentrism, they use essentialist ideologies. He then claims that these essentialist ideologies can become, “reactionary, defensive and exclusivist” (53). So there must be a better way. But what?
Noor suggests we can break out of the fight that has resulted from the Eurocentric vs. essentialistic cycle by first making sure all cultures have a concern for the liberty and human dignity of everyone. He claims this will also benefit us because the healthiest societies have understandings of“issues related to power, rights ad equity” (54).
Noor insists we then must accept that the world is trying to save a multicultural, multiracial and multi-religious world.
“We will need to attempt to understand and appreciate the way different societies and cultures have developed their respective understandings of human dignity and values and to try to identify the specific local traditions and thought systems that should be elaborated to ensure that the goals are achieved” (Noor 54).
Noor then outlines how we must begin to understand indigenous rights and liberties. Western nations trying to impose their ways on Asian (and other) cultures are simply unaware of Asian traditions and values so we must educate to inform them of this. When they are educated, they then might realizing they are actually intruding on their rights by implementing their values. Noor informs readers that there have been many movements in many different parts of Asian but that there needs to be more (such as recognizing other cultures’ beliefs) done to stop eurocentrism.
Finally, Noor outlines obstacles to combatting eurocentrism. He says the first one is simply that Asia has so many traditions and beliefs that it is going to be a daunting task to account for all of them. In addition, he claims of two other major obstacles in reviving Asian rights and liberties. The first being that Asian elites tend to use their Asian values as a strategic way of political and economic influence. The second one is that Western elites tend to assume that human rights are guaranteed only if the Western model is used everywhere. These are two very different but two very potent obstacles that need to be accounted for unbiasedly in the hope to revive a multicultural world.
“By living in a world crowded with different cultural world views and value systems, we can experience the many possibilities that underlie the true meaning of pluralist universalism, which, though it is rooted in genuine differences, also embodies fundamental similarities” (Noor 70-71).