A Social Justice Focus at COP21

Let me tell you about another Education Ambassador. His name is Roy Lander. He is a 5th grade life science teacher in Atlanta, GA at a progressive private school, The Galloway School. He is focusing his teaching on “Human Impact on the Environment.” He is teaching his students that often there are multiple causes to environmental problems, such as in a local fish kill. He uses this as an intro to climate change, which has several causes, and many ways to combat it. Even simple actions like reusing resources and stopping the use plastic bags can help.

When I asked Roy, “What do you want to bring back from the conference?”, he said he wants to have discussions on social justice. Climate change is a survival issue for many people. He believes that when people come together to talk about a topic, wow, how powerful we can be. Roy and I will be sharing resources on social justice and plan to learn more about the issues surrounding climate justice at COP21.

2015-12-06-15-00-14-storyToday we started to learn more by going to a UNESCO talk featuring three Indigenous storytellers. Robert Redford introduced them, stating that Indigenous Peoples are being heavily impacted by climate change, and because they “are close to the land,” they notice the effects more than most of us. The first storyteller was from New Guinea, the second from the Marshall Islands, and the last was from Indonesia. The chief from New Guinea has noticed that in foreign cities, people value trees and protect them in parks. He wondered then, why were they coming to his country and cutting down his trees. The storyteller from the Marshall Islands said that we need to ensure that protecting the rights of Indigenous People is in the text of the agreement at COP21. It has currently been taken out. She also said that a 2 degree rise in temperature will be too high to keep her island, which is only 1 meter above sea level, from flooding. We need to make our world goal to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius. The final storyteller can be heard here:

She lives on an atoll in Indonesia. Her people used to live on Bikini Atoll, but were moved off for nuclear testing. Now the smaller island they were moved to is being ransacked by the higher ocean waters.

These were powerful stories, showing the need for changes in worldwide practices that continue to exploit Indigenous Peoples’ resources while disregarding the negative impacts on them. We need to continue to share their stories.

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