The Human Side of Green

Grist's recent post Can human rights be the climate movement’s moral guide? touches on some questions that have come up before in this blog:

  1. How do you reach people on a personal level with the urgency about climate change?

  2. How can the green movement itself keep in touch with the human costs of environmental degradation?

On the first topic, the article references former UN High Commissioner for HUman Rights Mary Robinson's experience at the climate talks in Bonn this spring:

Young activists there wore t-shirts with the question, “How old will you be in 2050?” International delegates, said Robinson, realized there was something to the message and asked for t-shirts of their own.

OK, it’s not much of a zen moment, but something about the personal nature of the question—“How old will you be…”—carries more intimacy than a broad, sweeping slogan. Something about posing it as a question carries more weight than a statement. Something about leaving climate change’s countless uncertain, messy, and mundane implications packed up for the moment—there’s more punch to it that way.

Robinson also addressed the second topic when stating that displaced populations will probably be "the single greatest impact" of climate change:

She laid out a vision of “climate justice” as an orientation that keeps human rights at the forefront of climate work. To her, that involves acknowledging that people are already suffering because of climate change, listening to under-heard voices, and taking “responsibility for our past as well as our current emissions.”

So if the human side of green should be mobilizing us on a personal and a policy level to do something about the environment, how do we make that happen? I once suggested that videos of Amazonian deforestation be played in fast food restaurants, but isn't there already enough of a disconnect between the customers and the employees sweating under food lamps in polyester uniforms? If we can't see the humans right here in our communities, how will we understand and effectively address the needs of the humans halfway across the globe? Though some people are suffering already from climate change--and the associated food shortages--many of us in the West are now and will continue to be shielded from those consequences. I have more questions than answers about these topics, but it's encouraging that human rights and climate change are increasingly being seen as part of the same spectrum of respect.

Tags: Advertising, Human rights, Marketing, Policy

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