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When climate justice intersects with economic rebellion, the world changes

Climate change often affects the people embedded in poverty in the most, resulting in disastrous and unjust effects for people who are already the most vulnerable. But climate justice is a glimmer of hope in a sea of despair, and economic rebellion may be the key to unlocking a new kind of future…

Despite being scattered across the globe, too many countries share a sense of unrest. Over the past couple of years, we’ve seen many economic protests in countries including, but not limited to: Haiti, Chile, Colombia, Indonesia, Lebanon, and Iraq. These remonstrations represented issues such as income inequality, scarcity of resources, corruption, power outages, water shortages, and more.

Although the groups in these countries protest for their own distinct reasons, they all demonstrate ways in which climate justice and economic justice are interrelated. Climate change disproportionately impacts low-income communities as well as countries struggling with poverty. Recent protests in Iran and Cuba are reminding us of this phenomenon. 

First, what’s going on in Iran?

People have been protesting in many cities across Iran as electricity blackouts have become pervasive. According to BBCthe government attributed these blackouts to severe drought and high demand, as many were relying on air conditioning for the hot summer. 

There have also been objections to water shortages, and thousands of people working in Iran’s oil industry are protesting minimal pay and unacceptable working conditions. With all these issues and challenges presenting amidst the pandemic, many are questioning the Iranian government. Some are even calling for “death to the dictator.”

As climate change contributes to drought, power outages, and more, one can understand how these issues can exacerbate economic differences between high- and low-income communities.

Those with less money have fewer resources to cope with these issues. These climate and economic injustices are increasing tensions in Iran, which we are seeing in Cuba right now as well. 

Why are people protesting in Cuba?

On July 11 in San Antonio de los Baños, Cubans saw the beginnings of their first major protest in over 60 years. That protest has since spread throughout many cities in the country, including Havana. People have taken to the streets to protest declining living conditions. They are calling an end to the communist regime. Here are the basic facts: 

Accessibility to basic goods and services has been limited, COVID infections have surged, and tensions have been high as the economy took a hit from covid. As reported in The Wall Street Journal, “the Cuban economy contracted more than 11% last year” due to a drop in tourism and remittances from Cubans living abroad. The Cuban economy couldn’t withstand this loss of income. 

Moreover, Cubans have been waiting in line for hours for food items or to ride the bus. And, like Iran, electricity outages have become widespread. It may not be obvious, but climate change has undeniably contributed to this scarcity of resources.

As individuals in Cuba, Iran, and other countries struggle and fight for their ways of life, we can see how a fight for economic justice is also a fight for climate justice. 

How are climate change and poverty connected?

All over the world, we are seeing the effects of climate change. Sea levels are rising, weather patterns are shifting, cities are losing power, and bouts of extreme weather are jeopardizing lives. It’s clear that we need to find solutions fast. Climate justice is spurring a lot of current protests, but what does this have to do with low-income communities? 

Climate change disproportionately affects low-income communities and developing countries. These groups tend to experience increased exposure and vulnerability to the effects of climate change. 

For example, Mercy Corps reports that extreme weather events such as droughts, wildfires, and hurricanes tend to hit these vulnerable communities the hardest. Their food sources and way of living become compromised, exacerbating issues of hunger and poverty across the world.

Moreover, Joe McCarthy writes in Global Citizen:

“As global temperatures and sea levels rise, as the oceans acidify and precipitation patterns get rearranged, people living in poverty are the most severely impacted. Since climate change affects everything from where a person can live to their access to health care, millions of people could be plunged further into poverty as environmental conditions worsen.”

Joe McCarthy

In other words, climate change exaggerates economic disparities, and vulnerable groups with limited resources only become more vulnerable. These climate conditions disproportionately affect developing countries for similar reasons. 

Christina Chan, director of the World Resource Institute’s Climate Resilience Practice, tells Global Citizen:

“The world’s poorest communities often live on the most fragile land, and they are often politically, socially, and economically marginalized, making them especially vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.”

Christina Chan

What can climate justice look like, and how can economic rebellion help solve poverty?

It’s no wonder why tensions are high in countries taking the brunt of climate change, COVID, and poverty. And the U.S. embargo on Cuba certainly hasn’t helped. The inhabitants of these countries deserve our support, not economic strangling that hurts lives.

You can read more about how to help the people in Cuba right now on Travel and Leisure here.

Another small way to help communities vulnerable to climate change and economic ruin is to prioritize eco-friendly habits. Find out more about how to go green here.

These may be small steps to take toward a just and healthy world, but every step counts. When economic rebellion is a necessity, climate justice may be served. We just have to keep educating ourselves and working to ensure a more just future.