30 March 2023, 3 min read
It's not fair!
Bangladesh truly encapsulates what climate injustice is all about. What is our role in this injustice and what can we do about it?
As a child I always got upset when things didn’t seem fair. Whether it was getting the smallest slice of cake, my big brother getting to stay up later than me, or my wee sister getting away with things I never did. I railed against what I felt at the time was the gross injustice of it all.
Call it middle child syndrome, if you like!
Of course, these were all trivial incidents, and goodness knows we have far more serious examples of injustice in the world today. But that sense of anger at what seems to be grossly wrong or unfair has stayed with me. If anything, it’s grown even stronger, and it’s been the spark for me to do something about it.
Sometimes people use the term “climate justice”, and I guess the corollary of that is “climate injustice”. Recently, I read an article about Bangladesh which, for me, truly encapsulates what climate injustice is all about. This may seem far away, but the impacts of climate change are increasingly beginning to be felt here in the UK too. And we aren't prepared!
And so the question for us all to consider is, what is our role in this injustice and what can we do about it?
Bangladesh is one of the poorest nations on earth. And yet, its 160 million people suffer from the most severe impacts of climate change.
Two thirds of the country are less than 15 feet above sea level, meaning that large parts of the country are particularly susceptible to rising sea levels. Already there are millions of climate migrants trying to escape increasingly severe cyclones and flooding in coastal areas, moving to the slums around the capital Dhaka and the large city of Chittagong.
So many people in fact, that it puts enormous pressure on water supplies, which are already depleted due to contamination from sea water. As fresh water supplies become unusable, increasingly people in the large cities rely on groundwater supplies.
But, here’s the first problem.
Drawing water from depleted groundwater supplies and sinking ever-deeper boreholes to find fresh water is causing land subsidence. The big cities are literally sinking, in what is already one of the lowest-lying countries in the world.
War on Want estimates that 17% of Bangladesh’s land mass will be lost to rising sea levels by 2050!
And, here’s the second problem.
Increased heat, sea level rise and extreme weather events could lead to Bangladesh losing 60% of its wheat and potato production!
Bangladesh spends an increasing proportion of its GDP on renewing and building infrastructure to help mitigate the impacts of climate change. As a poor and developing nation, this is expenditure it cannot afford.
This is where we encounter the third problem.
To pay for this, they have to borrow the money and pay it back with interest. Just when you think it couldn’t get any worse, the water supply companies have to increase prices for access to water, directly affecting those already displaced, many losing their homes, by climate change.
And of course, here’s the fourth kick in the stomach.
Bangladesh is one of the lowest contributors to climate change, responsible for just 0.6 tonnes of C02 emissions per capita, compared with the UK’s 5.4 tonnes and the USA’s 14.7 tonnes.
In terms of overall contribution to the climate and biodiversity crises, Leeds University has a handy tool that allows us to compare different countries and how they live within the ‘doughnut’ – a term coined by Kate Raworth in Doughnut Economics – which sets out how we must strive to provide decent lives (the social foundation) within the ecological ceiling (planetary boundaries).
On the left is the UK, and you can see that whilst we pretty much provide the social foundation, we do so by breaching most of the planetary boundaries.
Bangladesh, on the right, lives within all the planetary boundaries, and yet struggles to meet basic social needs to live a decent life.
Who’s most affected by climate change?
THIS is injustice!
Now I can sit here on my own, channeling my middle child, scream, shout and stomp about how unfair this all is (sometimes I do!), OR we can rant together.
- What injustice triggers you most?
- Does this give you the impetus to do something about it?
- Do you see this as something you do personally, or something you can try and address through your business?
- What can we as businesses do to address injustice – within our organisations, our communities and the wider world?
Can a strong sense of injustice or even anger be the driver to make us work for change?
For those of you reading this, itching to step up and stand out, keen to reconnect with your purpose and bring your team and brand in alignment with the social and environmental impact you want to make...
For those of you who want to do more good and tell the world with integrity you're doing your very best...
I am here. Let's chat.