Climate & Social Justice

Petra Griffiths, member of the Eco Team, talks about the need to bring together earth and social justice.

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It is encouraging that many now recognise the need to bring together many elements of social justice with the actions that are needed for the future wellbeing of our planet, rather than working in silos on green issues and social issues.  At St James’s this is apparent in the naming of Earth Justice alongside Social Justice as part of our vision statements. A great deal remains to be done following the outcomes of the Glasgow Climate Summit in November 2021.

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Care International UK has said:

“It is estimated that climate change may push an additional 132 million people into poverty by 2030. The time to act is now. Climate change poses the greatest threat to the most vulnerable and marginalised communities in the global South, particularly women and girls, and people living in poverty.”


Encouraging buds of new growth are:

  • Climate justice is recognised as an important action point in development projects by agencies such as Christian Aid and Care International UK, working alongside local communities worldwide. e.g. Drought due to two failed rainy seasons had led to migration. This project aims to enhance the climate resilience and adaptive capacity of communities through empowering women and young people, supporting community-led planning and budgeting, and developing local advocacy and policy.
  • The need for a Just Transition movement is taken seriously by green campaigns and by organisations such as Citizens UK, for example during the Mayoral Election in London last year. Citizens UK explains “A ‘Just Transition city’ aims to ensure that new green policies benefit low-income communities, who face significant effects of climate change. We’re supporting efforts to make the city carbon-neutral by 2030 and ensure that the policies of a Green Transition prioritise low-income communities.” A Just Transition means moving to a more sustainable economy in a way that’s fair to everyone. This includes the replacement of jobs related to fossil fuels with those promoting renewable energy without disadvantaging the workers in those industries, as happened when the mines were closed and communities left devastated with only low paid work available.
  • The U.N. gave a platform to young activists from places most affected by climate change leading up to the COP26 Climate Summit. Campaigners from Figi, Ecuador, India and Zambia showed film clips of the environmental problems in their communities and pressed Antonio Gutteres, Secretary General of the UN, about global priorities for action.
  • Universities have begun to recognise in their courses the need to work inter-sectionally – to include people affected by all forms of disadvantage and exclusion when working towards climate and biodiversity solutions e.g. the new Institute for Climate and Social Justice at the University of Winchester, which aims to run a programme for the public as well as its academic courses.

How will we do things differently as a result of recognising the primacy of climate justice? At St James’s when we are planning actions to enhance sustainability, or educational events to help community members to be well informed and to make more life enhancing choices for the planet and all its peoples, we need to stop and consider not only our own small patch, but also commit to thinking in a broader way about how our actions can improve the life chances of those at the sharp end of floods, fires, drought and displacement, who are often those who have done least to bring these changes about.

I close with the words of powerful climate justice advocates:

Professor Robert Beckford, of the Institute for climate Justice and social Justice at the University of Winchester, and Professor of Black Theology at the Queen’s Foundation:

 “I studied liberation theology and began to see liberation as holistic, going beyond individual salvation to something that embraced social justice and environmental justice. The dominant framing in many church traditions focusses on blessing, bounty, God showering unlimited resources on people – which in turn is connected to global capitalism, to a discourse that supports the exploitation of natural resources for economic benefit – which is fundamentally opposed to environmental and social justice.

This perspective is amply demonstrated by the songs that dominate our communal worship……. Where is the room for lament? There is no room for acknowledging the pain, the grief, the suffering. Where are the songs for rage?”

Dr Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, (marine biologist and author of the Ocean Collective, pictured) and Katharine K Wilkinson (author of Between God and Green), in their book All We Can Save. Truth, courage and solutions for the climate crisis say:

“This speaks of the song at the heart of everything. Soul and soil are not separate. Neither are wind and spirit. Our grief is our love. Our love will be our undoing as we quietly disengage from the collective madness of the patriarchal mind that says aggression is the way forward. Today we need to rewrite the rules with all people in mind; feel a ferocious love for the planet we call home; collaborate with and support nature; moving from climate action to the necessity of climate justice. We need to agree what a just transition means and involve both individual and structural change.”