Saving the Arctic


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By Jasmine Roberts

Kumi Naidoo, the current Executive Director of Greenpeace International, arrived at the Social Good Summit wearing a colorful dashiki (a trace of his South African heritage). Naidoo is a truly a vision and revolutionary and as such was the most captivating speaker of the evening. Naidoo has participated in social justice demonstrations from an early age and was expelled from school at the age of 15 for standing up against apartheid. Throughout his lecture, Naidoo articulated that the link between social justice and environmental justice is fundamental and that there is a connection between human rights, poverty and environmental stability: “The struggle for climate justice is also the struggle to ensure that we claim back our democracy,” he said.

Earlier in the conference, Enrich Sala, National Geographic’s Explorer in Residence, had provided insight on the current state of ocean protection efforts to reduce the devastating effects of anthropocentrism, which has spurred pollution and overfishing. Sala is actively engaged in efforts to increase water quality and marine ecosystem biodiversity. Taking Sala’s cue, Naidoo frames environmental consciousness as ultimately an anthropocentric endeavor. “The planet does not need saving,” Naidoo states. “[When we are gone], forests will recover and oceans will replenish.” Our challenge is to “ensure that humanity can fashion a way to coexist in a mutually interdependent relationship with nature for centuries and centuries to come.” Naidoo contextualizes climate change ultimately as a geoengineering experiment with disastrous consequences. Humans need to work together with nature, not against it, by harnessing energy rather than seeking to control it. Although a viable alternative, renewable energy like wind and solar have been intentionally overlooked.

Throughout his lecture, Naidoo articulates that the link between social justice and environmental justice is fundamental—there is a connection between human rights, poverty and environmental stability.

Naidoo conveyed that blind consumerism has a trickle-down effect to marginalized areas. “It is terribly unjust that the people who are paying the […] most brutal price are those that have been least responsible,” he states. Greenpeace initiatives have led resistance by transitioning away from those with power to those who are powerless and empowering them to organize and contest.

Recently, Naidoo and colleagues participated in actions in the Arctic where they were imprisoned in Greenland and Russia. Naidoo draws a distinction between morality and legality: “Just because something is legal doesn’t make it just.” Naidoo points out that slavery, colonialism and denying women the right the vote were once legal but they were never right. The current laws protect those that are driving humanity towards climate catastrophe. This is a reason why we should stand up with courage.

Seven million ordinary men and women assisted Greenpeace’s “Save the Artic Campaign,” by putting pressure on Shell.  Shell recently announced they will not continue drilling in the arctic. This great success underscores the benefits of mass cooperation: enough people need to believe that change is possible and act with the urgency that the situation calls for.

Later this year, international leaders will meet in Paris at the United Nations Climate Change Conference to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate, which has not occurred within the past two decades. Collectively, we can expedite renewable energy and a new climate change policy.


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