Friday, July 12, 2019

Climate Change and the Voiceless

Randall Abate, Rechnitz Family Endowed Chair in Marine and Environmental Law and Policy and a Professor in the Department of Political Science and Sociology at Monmouth University, has a forthcoming book, Climate Change and the Voiceless: Protecting Future Generations, Wildlife and Natural Resources (Cambridge). He looks at the voiceless as "the most vulnerable and least equipped populations to protect themselves from the impacts of global climate change." Abate explains how domestic and international laws have not accounted for climate change and climate justice. This work builds on his earlier books, Climate Justice: Case Studies in Global and Regional Governance Challenges, which I had contributed a chapter, as well as Climate Change Impacts on Ocean and Coastal Law and Climate Change and Indigenous Peoples: The Search for Legal Remedies, co-edited with Elizabeth Kronk-Warner.

On his blog, Climate Change(d), he writes about the growing threat of climate change on vulnerable communities. 

When I started writing and teaching about climate change law and justice shortly after the turn of this century, climate change still seemed like a distant threat, but one that was close enough for vulnerable communities to fear as an imminent peril. Nowadays, whatever I do and wherever I travel, the fingerprints of climate change are evident, and the threat is much more imminent and widespread. It is no longer limited to vulnerable and impoverished communities – the affluent are no longer immune. The affluent are more protected and less in harm’s way than vulnerable communities, but it is now increasingly clear that we share a common vulnerability to climate change in the coming decades of this century in our shared status as Earthlings.

I enjoyed an excellent piece of creative nonfiction that was a useful complement to my thinking and engagement on this trip. In her book, Rising: Dispatches from the New American Shore, Elizabeth Rush compellingly portrays the stories of communities confronting sea level rise in the U.S. from Staten Island to Louisiana.  Her accounts from the front lines of these affected communities portray desperation, courage, and resilience in the face of these scientific realities and existential threats from sea level rise and its impact on what these communities had called home for generations.

One quote from the book resonated with me to help underscore the tenor of my reflections in the previous paragraph regarding the ubiquitous threat of climate change: “[T]he environmental apocalypse we often think of as existing only in films is already with us. The lines between our imagined futures and present tense grow increasingly blurry with every passing day.”

In 2004, we needed a jarring and fictional account to open our eyes to the daunting threats of climate change in the form of the Hollywood blockbuster movie, The Day After Tomorrow. Just fifteen years later, we are now living in and seeking to adapt to that scary, seemingly fictional new normal in our daily lives.

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