written by Liyana and Theva
Thank you to everyone that participated in KAMY’s first virtual documentary + discussion event!
Climate change? Without me! depicts the Global North (Europe and other developed countries) perspective on the climate crisis exploring radical or direct actions done on the streets, violently and peacefully. Evidently, these perspective and experience vary from the Global South. For centuries, the Global North countries have built their wealth from the raw materials, and labour exploitation (eg. child labour) from the Global South, where trade treaties fail to reflect on an equal partnership which has led to the economies of the Global South heavily carrying debts imposed by Global north banks.
Who is responsible for the climate crisis?
As a developing nation, is Malaysia allowed to ‘fulfill’ our carbon emission quota?
Are we replicating the development path of the Global North which destroys everything in its way, including the environment?
These are the questions we explored during the discussion. We made sure everyone has an equal voice, regardless of their level of climate understanding. Fifteen participants were warmly greeted and led to watching the DW Documentary titled Climate Change? Without me! It narrates the climate action from Germany, a first-world global North’s perspective (and challenges). The documentary screening was followed by an interactive discussion where participants were divided into three breakout rooms to explore the narratives framing the global North versus the global South within the context of education, consumption and responsibilities.
The first group of participants unanimously agrees that Malaysians, in general, are still not aware or well informed on the real impacts of climate change through education. The inadequate syllabus of climate change in our education system must go beyond the 3Rs (reuse, reduce and recycle), and should prepare young generations for the warming future. While most do acknowledge that climate change is real, too much information in the media has also overwhelmed most people to confusion. Especially when information is mostly conveyed in English and in unfamiliar jargons, which later repels people from understanding it. Thus, we need to make information more inclusive by communicating it in the native languages and in layman terms. This has also led to little empathy. Many fail to relate to the current and future impacts of the climate crisis and are complacent in their own comfort zone.
A great example is through the recent water issues in Selangor. Only when water cuts happen ever so frequently that the people and the government began to talk about environmental enforcement
Although the living experiences of the Germans and Malaysians vary tremendously, we helm similar challenges in making climate advocacy more impactful. Educating through raising awareness and understanding should be an urgency. We may learn from the featured activist in the documentary, Tino, where the need to make radical movements that evoke emotions and public discomfort similar to BERSIH, Fridays For Future or Extinction Rebellion should be an all in practice, which hopes to also pressure policymakers to make the environmental agenda a part of the education reform.
Since our education policies are still behind, we realised that real reforms would also have to start with us, at home, by homemakers, parents, partners, siblings etc. As the saying goes, people lead by example.
The second group of participants centres on consumption. The culture of overconsumption from both the global North and the global South have anchored our values towards materialistic endeavours and making shortcuts to living conveniently has led the planet to experience humanity's never seen before carbon's emissions, forest fires, drought and the rise of the ocean. But even though so, people are still continuing with the capitalist lifestyle. Large corporations weaned on heavy marketing to ‘support the economy’ by encouraging people to purchase more while doing the bare minimum on the social and environmental capital. Today, brands like Apple, Nestle and H&M creating the feel-good illusion for consumers while they continue to widen the wealth inequality across societies. The purchasing trends have huge consequences on the environment.
Manufacturing exhaust raw materials such as plenty of water, land-use, fertilizers, minerals, etc. In addition, these processes require energy often powered by conventional fossil fuel.
Transportation makes a large portion of global emission. This comprises raw materials, products and food produce.
This isn’t the only worrying part, disposal of these items has created issues of its own. They piled up in landfills, releasing toxic fumes if not captured, polluting our subsurface water reservoirs, streams, rivers before entering our ocean. Microplastic pollutants entering the living systems including human, detrimental towards public health, has been widely discussed.
So how do we curb this? It is not simple. The first step is to change one's own lifestyle in consumption. Buy from zero waste stores, thrift instead of buying new clothes from established brands, buy directly from local producers and farmers rather than buying imported foods, stop consuming single used plastics etc. However, this is not enough to change the system alone.
Activists and responsible businesses must grow beyond individualistic action and transition towards greater political will and pressure for inclusive policy interventions
The Global North has had centuries of irresponsible consumption as Columbus found the 'new world' where the colonizing period ensued, and the emergence of the industrial revolution, two world wars where world borders are restructured, and the rise of the internet. Historically, the global north is the main carbon polluters, creating wastes that lead to detrimental repercussions for us in the Global South. It is also upsetting to know that most of us in the global South lack supporting systems, eco-friendly policies and infrastructures, and the financial capacity to break free from the current narratives.
Worse, this has led to some countries in the Global North supporting dictators in the Global South for own economic opportunities and expansions such as the oil conflicts in the Mid-east and South America, and the apartheid in South Africa
Malaysia bukan tong sampah
In recent years, the Global North have been exposed to making the Global South as their dumping ground such as Lynas (radioactive waste) and plastic waste and refuses to take them back. The good news is, the Basel Convention Plastic Waste Amendments will take into effect next year January 2021 with hopes to put place structure and legal obligation in waste.
So how can we hold the Global North accountable? What is their part to reduce emissions and how are they accountable to make climate change as an emergency call? Is the Paris Agreement enough to ensure the global temperature shall be below 2 degrees?
The last group timely discusses these responsibilities.
A global discussion based on the principle of the Common But Differentiated Responsibilities (CBDR) helmed by world leaders, scientists and climate change advocates hope to ensure that all countries are responsible to address the global climate crisis. The Principle 7 Rio Declaration 92 which supplements CBDR as key components in the Paris Agreement was set to ensure equity and justice in forming climate solutions, of which climate finance negotiations rely on for the loss and damages department.
To conclude, we understood that the intersectionalities factors complex issues that may not be as simple as it seems. However, as individuals, we matter. The next question is, how do we mobilise for inclusive and fair climate action?
#JomDocu is a pilot project hosted by KAMY that aims to provide a non-judgmental, safe and free environment for like-minded individuals, regardless of their level of understanding in climate justice.
This event is also part of the Asia Climate Rally (ACR) campaign to increase climate solidarity, and visibility for climate impacts in Asia and provide avenues to organize resistance.
You can read more here.