15.11.2021.

The environment and the fight for the world’s poor Featured

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“The environment and the fight for the world’s poor are inherently linked." Philip Alston, the UN rapporteur, said in 2019.

 

 

Climate change looms over all countries, promising severe droughts, supercharged storms, and blistering heat waves. Above all, they threaten the most vulnerable populations across the globe. Climate change is going to amplify the already existing divide between those who have resources and those who do not. Those whom are rich and those whom are poor. 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. We often talk about how climate change exacerbates social and economic inequality, but rarely do we consider the opposite: that inequality itself can be a driver of climate change.

 

This key topic that is still overlooked is how environmental degradation and climate change are themselves the toxic by-products of our inequality problem. In the past decade we just weren’t comfortable talking about the way inequality functions in our society, which has changed since the global financial crisis and further the recent COVID-19 Pandemic. For example, the 2008 crash showed that severe inequality creates a more fragile economic system and that the global elite hold enormous political power. People assume that raising incomes will increase personal consumption and, as a result, also increase carbon emissions, which would do little to alleviate climate change, but there are so many more mechanisms at play, including how power disparities hobble communities from protecting, for example, their air or their water. To protect the environment, we need good jobs, we need a fair and even solid tax base, we need a good healthcare system, and we need fair criminal justice. However, an old piece of advice I was given long ago of “fairness is irrelevant” seems truer today than when it was given to me. inequality belongs at the center of our national conversation about climate change.

 

I think people — particularly people who care about the environment and economic injustice — need to learn about it, and incorporate it into their analysis. To get the word out and get people thinking and talking about the fact that inequality drives environmental harm. Many researchers have examined this question, based largely on the observation that a dollar spent at higher income levels is in some countries less energy intensive than at lower income levels. That is, rich people, though they consume much more in total, spend additional income on services or can afford efficient goods, while those in the lower classes are limited to buying more energy-intensive goods.

 

A great example would be the comparison of an EV and its “conventional” Petrol Counterpart. EV aficionados will tell you that electric vehicles are cheaper to fuel and maintain, so that means they must be cheaper to own and operate. EV skeptics will counter with the premium pricing of many EVs, something that's quantifiable when a brand sells both a gas-powered and full EV version of the same vehicle. Upon review we find mere differences in three-year cost analysis of differences of well under five-hundred dollars in comparison to equal models by the same manufacturer; I.E. Mini Hardtop petrol vs Mini EV, Hyundai Kona Petrol vs the EV model and so on.

 

Sounds great right? What’s five hundred dollars when we are talking about a median price tag of around forty thousand.

 

What these studies do not consider that these are new cars and new cars are driving out of reach for the working class and poverty classed people of the world. Now, amid stagnant wages and a shaky recovery, the average new car price rose last year by $1,536 USD, and the gap is growing monthly here in North America. The working class North American can only afford used cars. One might only say it’s just a car but it’s a life line for the working class, it’s not just a point A to point B but a means to keep a job. Dealerships point out that car loans are much smaller than home loans, decreasing risk. And when forced to choose, buyers may skip the payment on their house. But they won't miss the one on their car, you got to get to work. You got to eat.

 

More than 7 million North Americans are already 90 or more days behind on their car loans and serious delinquency rates among borrowers with the lowest credit scores have by far seen the fastest acceleration. Poorer North Americans are stretched so thin they cannot afford to pay more. They just don’t have any flexibility to increase their payment. It’s also to be noted that yes there are very intrusive high interest car loan programs aimed at the working class and poor but many of these financiers aren’t offering EV’s but rather former rental units that have hit their mileage mark with these businesses. These vehicles will usually be the run of the mill conventional petroleum vehicle and those that cannot opt for this financially will opt for a much older and not environmentally efficient vehicle courtesy of their local classifieds.

Jayden Smith / Celebrity Tesla Influencer

 

 

This isn’t also to ignore another gleaming problem the adverts and social media sell dreams to us that appear to be just within reach, drive this car, wear this jewellery or these shoes to win respect. An ideal sold of you don’t have to be rich to live rich, you don’t have to be a winner to look like you’ve won. Combine that with a lack of financial education or even basic health warnings about debt and your left with the consumer arriving to the end of the month and discovers they have no money left in their checking account, they’ve spent every cent they have and wonder how on earth they’re supposed to save for their retirement or their kids’ education. This is a social problem on its own, and oddly enough I’m observing more Tesla’s on my daughters Tik Tok feed then the common place high performance and sexy super cars of the day. It’s cool to own a Tesla now and perhaps this is a good trend but the point is still the same: The average working-class person cannot afford them and this inequality inadvertently drives the increase in carbon foot print.

 

Meanwhile, one new study found that by 2030, the carbon footprints of the richest one per cent are expected to reach 30 times the level compatible with the 2015 Paris Agreement.

 

 

600 Million Dollar Mega-Yacht (Source : Here)

 

The author of that report says it's not just the space tourism that Bezos and other billionaires have been promoting that's leading to higher emissions. "It's the private jets, it's the mega yachts, it's the multiple homes — all of this stuff comes with a massive carbon footprint," said Tim Gore of the Institute for European Environmental Policy. "The idea that these are the people we need to listen to understand how to tackle the climate crisis is really bonkers,".

 

 

So what’s the point? people with power and money have always been able to escape peril since the dawn of man.But we are now to be a more benevolent society or at least that’s what we sell to each other and this well-developed thirty seven year old communication method we call the internet should allow us to come together and solve these issues before it “eats the poor”. I would hazard to guess with all sarcasm intended that we’d be such a group to come together with…. Spoiler alert…. We are and we need you to make a difference.

 

 

 

I believe the point if you’ll excuse my long-winded read is that I don’t believe we can fully tackle climate change and our carbon issues until we tackle the inequality and poverty issues. You will not get the average working-class person to give pause and care to the crisis when they are faced with the more present personal crisis of living pay cheque to pay cheque or perhaps at worse an empty dinner plate and where that next meal may come from.

 

 

 

                                                                                 - S.M. Jenkins

 

 

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Last modified on Monday, 15 November 2021 20:33