A much needed strike for climate justice

by Aparna Sharma

I saw a sign which read, “The climate is hotter than Justin Bieber”. My preteen made her weird face and said,“I don’t think Justin Bieber is hot, Cole Sprouse is really hot”. Anyways, this article is not about who is the hottest man alive so let me bring the focus back to what is really hot right now. You guessed it absolutely right, amazon forests are burning and there is a growing fear that the worst is yet to come. Global emissions are reaching record levels and show no sign of peaking. The last four years were the four hottest on record and winter temperatures in the arctic have risen by 3°C since 1990. Sea levels are rising, coral reefs are dying and we are starting to see the life threatening impact of climate change on health through air pollution, heatwaves and risks to food security.

kidMy 10 year old daughter told me,“There is a climate emergency strike in Bangkok on 20th September, I really want to go. Can you please get permission from school for me to go strike”. At this point, I have to tell you that I have never gone on a strike for anything in my 41 years of existence and I was really surprised at her passion to go on this strike. She is very particular about reducing single use plastic, she would say, “Mommy, you know how many turtles have died from eating plastic, honey bees are affected too, we won’t have honey if we kill all of them”. She initiated a few sustainable practices in the house so her request was not entirely unexpected so I sent in an email in to school and got a positive reply. This strike was supported by the Ministry of Education and hundreds of students took to the road with slogans demanding climate justice.

Save worldThe impacts of climate change are already evident around the world. Thailand, as part of the Mekong River Basin is struggling to deal with these impacts which result in part from ecological pressures introduced by large hydropower dams, deforestation, coastal erosion and urbanisation. Currently, Thailand is home to a population of about 70 million and is particularly vulnerable to extreme weather events such as floods and droughts which are becoming more frequent and severe as a result of climate change. For example, in 2011 Thailand experienced its worst ever flood event on record, at a cost of US$46 billion for repair and rehabilitation nationally and US$8 billion in Bangkok alone.

MarchMore recently, the national hydroinformatics and climate data centre (NHC) recorded a significant period of recurrent and prolonged droughts between 2015 and 2016 that led to critically low levels of water in reservoirs nationwide. In 2016, these droughts significantly reduced the length of the growing season as well as agricultural yields. Furthermore, in a economic study focusing on trends in extreme weather conditions along the Chao Phraya river basin, it was projected that in the next two decades, extreme droughts could create conditions for dry season irrigated rice production where total production levels would be reduced by 30.9%. The rise in sea level is another impact resulting from climate change which threatens livelihoods in coastal communities. For example, saltwater intrusion has caused a significant decline in rice yields in the upper Gulf of Thailand, contributing to the vulnerability of mangrove forests and degraded coral reefs. These impacts have affected the ecosystem services provided by these natural resources as well as in the fisheries in this region and the livelihoods that depend upon them. Research has shown an increase in the local mean sea level of 5 mm/year over the last 25 years in this region .

Save worldThe strikers marched from Sena Place Hotel to the Ministry of Thailand demanding for climate justice. The strike was well organised and did not disrupt traffic, the passionate energy coming from the strikers made a few people stop and notice. They gave the letter with their demands to the Ministry of Thailand. The letter was a request to the Thai government to treat global warming as an emergency by slashing subsidies for fossil fuels and switching to 100% renewable energy as soon as possible. The strikers were holding signs such as “There is no planet B, take action now” in front of the Ministry and they pretended to be dead by lying down on the floor and insisted on immediate action to save their lives.

The enthusiasm and energy was extremely passionate and I feel extremely hopeful when I see this global movement started by environmental activist Greta Thunberg (a 16 year old Swedish environmental activist who is credited with raising global awareness of the risks posed by climate change, and with holding politicians to account for their lack of action on the climate crisis) gaining a lot of momentum in 2019.

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