East Midlands Green Party Blog

Poverty and Climate Change: Can we afford not to vote Green?

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The government chief scientist recently warned of climate change causing massive problems in our life-times. Local Green Party candidate Katharina Bottege answered “Look out of your window, it is happening now.” With chief scientist of present government warning of increased extremes in weather and problems with food, water and energy security, this post looks at how this is happening here, now and how we recognise it in increasing poverty and social injustice.  Our government says we cannot afford to take action against climate change despite their wasting of billions on failing systems. The Green Party says we cannot afford not to deal with climate change. Positive action against climate change can limit poverty and increase economic and social stability.

Climate change creeps into our lives in a million different ways, poverty is one of them. On one icy day last week I spoke with two ‘strangers’ about the effect of climate change upon their lives. The first chat was with a busy woman with a bad cold working at a checkout. She spoke of lighting candles instead of putting on the heating after her long shift. She wanted to convince herself she was warm. The second conversation was with a young man who sat next to me on the bus home. He talked of getting under the duvet on the sofa with friends to watch a film and how this time last year he was in shorts and t-shirt.  It is not hard to talk about climate change and the economic systems that fuel it, even if people aren’t always aware that is what they are talking about. We don’t talk so much about the extreme affects. The driest, hottest month of March since records began in 2012 and this year’s icy lack of spring both affect food production, health and well-being. Climate chaos means we also experience many floods across the region and beyond, destroying agriculture as well as homes and businesses. It is costing jobs. It is costing lives. In this freezing season people are dying.

Climate chaos is costing the people of the East Midlands dearly, today!  The rising cost of food and heating are part of it.  As I trudged through ice on my way home I thought of the increasing numbers of homeless people and others in fuel poverty. I also thought of the seeds, buds and bulbs; the ecosystems and food systems frozen in stasis. The effects further down the line when crops fail will be that food access goes down more and prices go up again. United Nations Development Programmes and Oxfam are among the many organisations who know poverty and climate change are linked. Transportation of food, water and other necessities is getting more expensive as fuel gets more expensive and government refuses to invest in alternatives that are less expensive, more efficient, safer and less polluting; alternatives that, unlike our present system, do not add fuel to rising poverty and social injustice. There are social costs to climate chaos. In extremes we have seen in Northern Ireland recently, people burning furniture to survive.

In ‘Collapse: How societies choose to fail or survive’ Jared Diamond looks at how, blinded by a creeping sense that this is all normal and therefore OK, many symptoms of climate change and environmental destruction go unseen. Crowded hospitals and education system are symptoms. Lowered wages as millions work in fewer centres of employment further from where they live are signs. High house prices, lost communities, traffic jams and longer commutes from where we live to where we work, rest and play are among the rising human costs of environmental destruction. Trouble finding places to put the things we throw ‘away’ is another symptom meaning problems with waste disposal. Disease epidemics, starvation, drought, increased violence, more wars, genocides, the oppression of groups of people, certain kinds of human rights abuses including people trafficking are all partially caused or made worse by climate change. So much in fact of what we find increasingly normal and unavoidable because we become used to it.

The increasing amount of vulnerable people going cold or malnourished and the resulting illness and even death are rooted both in financial system failures and in climate chaos our economic and political system is too blinkered and blundering to deal with. Tax breaks for big oil companies and billions spent on nuclear cannot replace renewables which are cleaner, safer, with decreasing cost, increasing effectiveness and job creation. The opposite in every sense of present policies of our government and the weak opposition. The same political systems that cut services and welfare and place too much control in the hands of the wrong aspects of the private sector. The same system that sells off NHS and schools and targets taxes on the poor.

Climate chaos increases natural disasters like tsunamis, famines, forest fires, floods. It causes more crop failures, extinctions and the collapse of eco-systems needed for our life and the health of the planet.  Resource scarcity means higher prices and less to go around, so less and less people have access to basics in life, such as clean water, food, shelter, dignified living conditions, work, security . This helps create more human conflicts and oppression, leading to more displaced and vulnerable people, more people trafficking, more poverty. We see it ourselves in increasing cost of life’s basics, in families requiring food parcels, in rising homelessness and mental health issues, in more people without work or security. We see it in rising hatred, blame and violence between different social groups. We see our government blaming all this on the most vulnerable and on the poorest while ignoring root causes. Greens offer another vital way, a jobs rich, low carbon, resilient economy based on what is sustainable and upholds dignity and justice. Together we can make a difference in our neighbourhoods, in our nation and in the world by adopting policies that tackle climate change as surely as they stand up for social justice and human rights.

Government is subsidizing the wrong companies, the wrong practices, practices which cost jobs and security, practices which are not competitive and do not boost the economy but cost us all. They cost us in taxes used to bail out, subsidize and support procedures that put us, our present and future at risk. These are not procedures that sustain a resilient economy that is jobs rich, well-being focused and protective of the natural systems of which we are part.Treating people like disposable commodities and refusing to pay social and environmental duties is not deemed necessary for profit in well run companies. ‘Provamel’ is a profitable, ethical company that operates carbon neutral food production with attention to detail on environmental impact from field to plate; an environmental no harm approach.

So, for the economy, for community, for planet, for people, for social justice, for ethical business, for tax justice and reform in the financial sector and for tackling climate change and poverty, can we afford not to vote green?

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