Written by Alejandra Miled Martínez Tamayo
In accordance with Fridays For Future’s (FFF) campaign “Unheard but not voiceless” in September 2020, we see that the climate crisis is asymmetrically impacting the world. Media outlets are alarming us of the devastating effects that the climate crisis may have on us in the future. However, the reality is that the Most Affected Peoples and Areas (MAPA) of the climate crisis are already living through these devastating effects in the present day. The “Unheard but not voiceless” campaign has also led to the creation of an FFF branch solely dedicated to MAPA issues, which on its own has done many campaigns and has been growing in popularity ever since.
This is why it is crucial that we learn how to better accommodate and support the climate activists in the Global South and the issues they come forward with. So, we’ve put together three easy pointers to know where to start.
1 STAND BEHIND THEM, NOT OVER THEM
As 24-year-old activist Mitzi Joelle Tan says on one of her Instagram posts regarding the issue: “As someone from the Global South […] it can be so difficult to have your voice heard, what more listened to and valued.” It is important that we become aware of “white saviorism in the climate movement”, as Mitzi refers to it. We understand white saviorism or white-savior complex as the attempt of white people to aid BIPOC communities or individuals based on the idea that they know best and that the white/western knowledge, skills and ingenuity are inherently superior (Murphy, 2021). This is also found in the climate movement, often in an unconscious attempt to be the “voice of the voiceless”. However, this often does more harm than good. For that reason, Mitzi suggests in an interview in the Bad Activist Podcast for western people to take a step back, and instead “silence rooms, make space for us and fight with us”. Global South voices have long been talked over and their unique experiences have become a retelling of someone else’s tale. The climate crisis has already taken a toll on MAPA communities, so when we occupy a space in the climate movement (be it in an organization, a university discussion or even at a march), we must let those who have experienced it be the ones to take the spotlight.
2 TAKE PART IN THEIR CAMPAIGNS
In an attempt to not speak over them but instead yield our spaces, it is important to stay up to date with recent campaigns and initiatives powered by individuals or communities in the Global South. Traditional media has a history of silencing and underreporting MAPA issues, but it is our duty to stay informed. Actively seeking out news reports in traditional media regarding the Global South is a good step to start on. Another way is following media outlets that report uniquely on the Global South, such as AlJazeera, along with think tanks such as Puerta de Africa (Spanish), which occasionally reports specifically on the impact of the climate crisis in MAPA regions.
As previously mentioned, many activists in the Global South have aligned to create a platform specifically for issues regarding them. Consequently, as recent times have shown, active support on social media is highly valuable. It can be done in simple ways, like adopting the term “MAPA” into our vocabulary, as MAPA individuals themselves affirm that “too much of the language used both within the climate movement and externally centers whiteness and euro-centric ideals”. Alongside that, they have created a symbol “meaning ‘solidarity’ in many sign languages” (Tan, 2021). So, use this sign at demonstrations, on your social media and in any space where the MAPA perspective is being overlooked.
3 DEMAND CHANGE FROM OUR LEADERS
As Mitzi affirms: “the reason we are so impacted by the climate crisis is because of the imperialist plunder of your countries”. Being aware of how world dynamics benefit us and in turn hinder others is essential in order to take action. Many environmental groups participate in Twitter- or email storms aimed at politicians and other important actors, which is a great way of demanding change. Alongside that, we must take an active part in national politics and denounce national policies that directly depend on the exploitation of the Global South. We must push our leaders to be accountable and enact change. Lastly, as International Relations and Organizations students, we are future policymakers, government representatives and overall actors in global politics. Thus, it is our responsibility to be aware of this dependency that the Global North has created with the Global South and how it has led to environmental catastrophes worldwide.
Overall, in order to tackle the climate crisis and to prevent its effects on our communities, it is crucial that we responsibly and productively support MAPA issues and do our part in changing the narrative!