It's the second day of the Young Friends of the Earth summer camp in (somewhat) sunny Brittany, and with our wonderful guest speakers from around the world, we've had workshops on plans for activism at this December's UN climate talks in Paris (COP21), the impacts of climate change on migration, and many more. Carmen from Scotland and Fatima from the Netherlands share their experiences from these sessions.
Fatima - Climate Change and Migration
We start with the fact that we are all migrants. Just think about it. If we look at our grandparents, the chances are that their grandparents are from other countries. Even the Queen of the Netherlands is from Argentina. Yet, the perception about migrants these days are very negative. We see them as poor people, but according to Eros Sana fro 350.org we shouldn't. Migration is a good thing.
It is a good thing, because these migrants not only produce wealth for their home country, but also for the country they live in. In fact, many of these people have overcome hardships and struggles to migrate. So in a way, they are the factors of stability and justice in their community. But how does this relate to climate justice?
While sitting on the grass in a circle we look up to Eros who preferred to stand on the grass. He is from Congo but migrated to France when he was a child. He tells us the many reasons why people migrate. And one of them is that they have no choice but to flee to another country. When migration is forced in this way through the direct and indirect impacts of climate change, we refer to these people as climate refugees.
For example, take a closer look at New Jersey, where Hurricane Sandy destroyed a lot of homes. Most victims were black and latino people. If we look at past climate events, we can see that mainly the oppressed ones are the victims of these climate change effects. And in this case the migrants are a good example. Just in 2014, over 19 million where displaced from their homes.
So what is the solution? First we need to justify the problem. According to media and European governments, Europe has 'too many' refugees. Let's take a look at Lebanon, which is housing over one million Syrian people, while France only took in 5,000 Syrians. Yet France is relatively more capable of giving these people refuge. So first of all, don't always believe the media and second, make sure you don't portray migrants as poor people. Last but not least, we need to have genuine solidarity. By doing that we have to understand other people (in these case migrants) without travelling the same path as they did.
TTIP - Focus on food
I always thought that I knew enough about the whole TTIP situation - the trade talks currently ongoing between the EU and the US. But Natasha from Friends of the Earth Europe quickly proved me wrong. She gave us a short explanation about TTIP, during which I came to the conclusion that I was still oblivious about the agreement. Apparently, the aim of TTIP is not about 'increasing' trade, but to change the 'regulations' of governing bodies on both sides . And that is the problem.
There is much going on within this so-called 'golden agreement'. And since I am a member of the Food and Agriculture working group at Young Friends of the Earth Europe, I'll take a good example of what will happen if TTIP takes its full course.
Making the conditions of controlling food imports more accessible and harmonising the regulation of chemicals are a few points that are being discussed within TTIP. And now here comes the Trojan Horse. These words like 'more accessible' and 'harmonising' doesn't sound bad at all. The language used in documents looks sweet, but if you look behind the lines you find out this trade is dangerous.
Currently, the USA has an approach to regulating chemical and food safety where products are allowed on the market by default, and the burden of proof to show that they may not be suitable for human consumption is on a US government body to judge this post-hoc.
The EU meanwhile has a 'precautionary' approach, where corporations must prove that their products are safe before they enter the marketplace.
By harmonising regulations, we won't have that precautionary approach anymore. The EU will eventually lean towards relying on data from big corporations like chemical industries and Monsanto etc. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is not what we want. Believe me.... Uhh.. I mean, believe yourselves.
Meanwhile on the other side of the camp, Carmen from Scotland reflected on the climate games - a creative way of taking action on the streets of Paris this December during the UN climate talks.
Carmen - Climate Games: crowd-sourcing a movement
I always imagined that a gathering such as this Young Friends of the Earth Europe summer camp would cater for all tastes and preferences. However, I can say that the climate games workshop was, for a games and new technology enthusiast like myself, an unexpected gem.
The Climate Games web platform and mobile app aim to facilitate the formation of activist affinity groups around the globe, bringing people together and crowd-sourcing relevant information. Our workshop, however, didn’t rely on this technology and was more of a simulation to showcase the creativity and innovation it can spark.
Split into groups, we were first asked to do a skill-mapping exercise, identifying the ‘superpowers’ of our individual team members. We were then handed an imaginary scenario and had to quickly plan a suitable action according to our abilities and imagined circumstances.
While the workshop led to some rather hilarious proposals and action plans, due to the light-hearted approach, this is not to say that the app doesn’t have enormous potential for aiding serious actions; the importance of connecting individuals and creating strong activist movements cannot be emphasised enough. Moreover, the app provides its users with a tool to map and share information regarding both resources and threats instantly.
All in all, while I enjoyed the session, what makes me happiest is to finally see grassroots environmental networks embedding the capabilities of current technologies into their work and using it to inspire positive change.