Climate crisis and Human Rights, a conversation to understand where we are

Climate crisis and Human Rights, a conversation to understand where we are

By Mora Laiño and Fabrina Bustos.
Translated by: Grecia Zamateo de Luna, Analía Iufa, and María Lucila Sörös.
Not so long ago, talking about climate change meant to call upon abstract fictions that little had to do with our everyday reality. However, nowadays, we have more tools to analyse the climate crisis as a phenomenon closely linked to the lack of access to basic human rights that unequally impacts in different populations.
Thereafter this axis, last August we organized a round table on “Climate Crisis and Human Rights” in which we call four specialists from different disciplines. We seek to integrate different perspectives regarding this complex problem, going from a more general dimension towards the particularities of what happens in the territories. The proposal was open to the public and convened almost 300 people.
The first contribution was in charge of Gabriel Blanco – teacher and author, who coordinates the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)- who instructed us on how we manage to completely move away from natural cycles, taking as an axis the current paradigm of development based on fossil fuels that is being implemented since the Industrial Revolution. 
“Our culture is based on the idea that we count on resources of steady and unlimited growth; that everything material can increase without questioning or ends,” he said. 
He stressed that the economic analysis doesn’t contemplate natural resources (sources for the production of goods and services) nor the other ecosystem services, neither pollution nor other social aspects such as education, health, human rights, etc. Getting out of this model implies changing the already established interests. The question is whether we have the will to give up amenities to solve environmental and social issues which, in many cases, affect a small community, but doesn’t draw attention to it, even if they originate in the same causes of climate change. 
Then, Enrique Viale, environmental lawyer, established a direct link between environmental degradation and the sanitary, ecological, social and economic crisis we are facing. 
In such unequal world, the problems arising from the climate crisis emphasize this inequality. He also stated that “while part of the population is locked down, other part faces contagion, repression, hunger, and racist and patriarchal violence”. 
Likewise, he expressed that it is necessary to rethink the concentration of population in urban areas. In Argentina, 92% of the population lives in cities, which is not healthy neither for the environment nor for people. To rethink the structure in which we live, it is vital to articulate environmental and social justice. It is not viable to advance on “green” urban projects if the society and the environment are not considered as a whole.
Then, Lucrecia Wagner, professor, researcher and expert in socio-environmental conflicts, made her contribution. She historised the experiences of community organization around social and environmental injustice taking Mendoza’s community as an example of the continuous fight against metalliferous mining that pollutes the water sources of the region. And, she also described how after a years-long process of community organization using mottoes such as “Life and water are not negotiable” and “No social license, no mining”, community demands became visible through media and were included in national and international public agendas, avoiding the amendment of Act 7722 key for the protection of population facing the progress of mining projects and their impact on common resources.
The person in charge of closing the discussion group was Fabiana Menna, President of Gran Chaco Foundation, who analyzed the climate crisis from the gender perspective on the basis of territorial strategies of adaptation to climate change developed within the framework of the Gran Chaco Proadapt program. 
She talked about the work that they have been doing together with other institutions in four strategies of action: climate training, adaptive planning of the municipalities, adaptation to the traditional productive systems (cattle industry, agriculture, forestry and craftwork) and promotion of the participation of the women from Gran Chaco in the processes of climate change adaptation. 
“The organized, trained and connected woman, enhancing her productivity and participating actively in the spaces of decision-making: it´s about that. If we want to think about new models, we must ensure that, from all social groups, the woman participates in the decision-making,” she emphasized. 
Another aspect that was part of the conversation, was the necessity to put aside obsolete dichotomy, such as culture-nature, city-countryside, or production-conservation. They agreed that the productive models based in biodiversity, natural resources and the combination of the scientific knowledge with local populations are the most powerful. 
The direction proposed in the discussion group aimed at understanding the social and political dimension that involve the climate crisis, understanding that the exit strategies should include social justice and address inequality in the access to human rights that exist today. 
The people who are most affected by the impacts of this environmental crisis are the people who are more socially vulnerable. Therefore, in order to manage it actively, we have to look more closely into topics that are related not only to reducing greenhouse gas emissions but also topics that involve central aspects such as education, health and local production, among others.