The climate crisis is a human rights issue and is showing itself to be very imminent in the UK. We’ve had the hottest day on record this July at a whopping 40.2 degrees Celsius, wildfires have been burning grass and flames have up roared and ruined so much land in the space of two months in more northern parts of England such as York and Manchester.
1,500 people lost their lives during the July heatwaves in England and Wales, according to the ONS (Office of National Statistics). Not everyone can afford fans, or the bills that come with them. Not everyone can afford air conditioning, especially as it isn’t a normally installed thing for UK homes, as our homes are built to insulate a colder climate. The list of weather-bearing luxuries goes on, possibly a huge reason so many have died during this heatwave.
Wildfires in the UK have surpassed 20,423 hectares of land lost in the United Kingdom in 2022 alone. The average amount of land loss due to wildfires in the UK prior to this (between 2006-2021) – was only 6,000. The planet is quite literally burning, and at a much faster rate than was originally predicted.
It was predicted by David Attenborough that we would see this kind of loss of land in 2080, with the planet becoming completely unhabitable by 2100.
The truth is vulnerable communities have been dealing with the effects of climate change and environmental pollution for decades now. Marginalised communities of people such as the working class, Indigenous peoples and communities, people living with disabilities, and those discriminated due to their race are all the most vulnerable to the climate crisis and will be the people to pay the price whilst the rich get greedier.
Council housing in the UK is severely underfunded, along with pretty much anything that has been nationalised in the past century. Minorities and marginalised people often are housed in less- safe areas that the government do not take care of, which makes it very difficult to live safely, and ensure that Maslow’s Hierarchy of basic needs are met. This includes safe outdoor space, access to light, supermarkets, public transport and as opposed to the super-rich, who get to live in wealthy, well invested areas of the UK untouched by poverty. This is of course, no accident. The Government have always intended to target socially and economically disadvantaged people.
In the UK, the climate crisis is and has been affecting those living in poverty, and those who live with disabilities for decades.
“I live in an area where the bin men don’t collect regularly, and what was once a river on my doorstep is now a sewage creek.” – Eleanor Dare
Eleanor Dare, a 26-year-old blogger from Manchester, England describes her experience with being diagnosed with muscular dystrophy. “Since my diagnosis, my mobility and the pain that comes with it has become unbearable. It doesn’t help that I can’t find remote employment or a means to live. The government are wanting more money out of me, my benefits have been cut and it’s already such a tight squeeze. I live in an area where the bin men don’t collect regularly, and what was once a river on my doorstep is now a sewage creek. It makes me ill most days being stuck amongst the rubbish knowing I can’t do anything about it. I’ve gone to my local MP, no response, unsurprisingly.”
Eleanor is one of hundreds of thousands of Britons facing climate change from a head-on view. The wealthy get to ignore it, for now. If you engage in pop culture at all, you’ve likely seen a stark contrast to the way you may be living, to the likes of ‘The Kardashians’ who have reportedly used nine years’ worth of water in one year.
Former Chancellor Rishi Sunak recently announced more funding to go into Royal Tunbridge Wells, which of all places and communities in the UK that need funding right now, it certainly could be argued that money could be invested into the climate crisis, and nationalising energy companies to target the ever-rising cost of living crisis.
Another way in which minorities are being the most affected by climate change is due to the global discrimination against those living with disabilities not being taken seriously. Through the media lens, Greta Thunberg is one of the people who experiences this first-hand and very publicly. Greta identifies with being on the autistic spectrum, and whenever she protests and attends UN conferences, she is snubbed by the wealthy in power for both her age and the neurological condition Greta is so open about living with. Who could forget conservative commentator Michael Knowles’s comment on Greta, labelling the climate crisis and Greta’s call for politicians to take action as a “hysteria that is not about science, it’s about a mentally ill Swedish child who is being exploited by her parents and by the international left.” Fox News have since apologised to Greta on behalf of Knowles and banned him from having a platform on Fox News.
Luke Pollard, member of parliament and Labour’s Shadow Environment Secretary for Plymouth, England’s Sutton and Devonport area, had no comment for this article.
Darcy Robins, an environmental researcher from Plymouth University has studied marine conservation and has protested that the way we treat our environment directly affects marginalised communities.
“We need to be aware that over-fishing is already having an impact, and more specifically on the poorer communities.”
“As once a port city, it’s no surprise that Plymouth’s oceans are going to be oil-rigged. However, the diversity of wildlife down here is surprisingly abundant. Saying this, there has been a 25% decline in the number of trout, cod and crabs being found near Mayflower Steps since 2015, where most of the local fish and chip shops get their produce. We need to be aware that over-fishing is already having an impact, and more specifically on the poorer communities – as Plymouth’s fish and chip takeaways are some of the most affordable in the UK. So, this has a real domino effect on the economical side for the working class as well as the environment in the southwest of England. You don’t see the rich complaining of the lack of caviar, and that’s because we’re selling it to the rich before the fish have a chance to become abundant again during breeding seasons.”
It’s clear that the climate crisis is a human rights issue directly affecting the disadvantaged, but what can we do?
- We can write to our local MP’s.
- We can sign parliamentary protests.
- We can fundraise.
- We can educate ourselves about the voting system, and who truly has our best interest.
But this truly lies in the hands of those in positions of power, and without protest, without general elections, without signing petitions, without fundraising and without spreading awareness, we can’t make differences.