Joined up thinking is crucial as we work towards climate justice, and tackling the climate crisis can and should definitely go hand-in-hand with tackling other issues: conflict, inequality, poverty, health etc.. But understanding how to create holistic systems requires us to listen. Listening is always key.
Several of the projects I am involved with demonstrate environmentalism, conservation and ecosystem restoration done right. They demonstrate how increasing natural capital can filter into many different sustainable development goals – from tackling gender inequalities, to bringing jobs and opportunities for local communities.
But without hearing from disparate stakeholders, how can we ensure equality, resilience and sustainability moving forwards? Most importantly, exemplars of good practice take a community-led approach, and listen to everyone with a stake in a project.
They show how important indigenous knowledge can be to finding a pathway forward that works for all. And that no-one should be shut out for environmental conversations. Tackling climate justice from a paternal standpoint (we know best, a top down approach) simply will not work, nor provide sustainable solutions. The importance of simply listening cannot be overstated.
The hangover of Imperialism and ’empire thinking’ hamper many approaches, and can worsen injustices even as they try to help. The developed West cannot always know best. And of course a knowledge of history shows us how much harm this sort of thinking has done. “Do as we say, don’t do as we did” is not the way.
And even domestically, we ignore marginal voices or those not usually involved in environmentalism at our peril. Without understanding of what really matters to everyone, without hearing fresh, different ideas, we cannot hope to reach a sustainable future that really does work for all. Stepping out of our bubbles, casting off prejudices and talking about disagreements rather than burying our heads in the sand is the only way. Listening is the first part of the puzzle.