We need a culture of care to stop climate breakdown

The climate crisis didn’t happen in a vacuum. It was a long time coming, not only because countries and regions were industrialising but because we were creating systems on already existing unjust foundations. These foundations are rooted in patriarchy, white supremacy, colonialism, classism, heteronormativity and ableism. All neatly coming together in the form capitalism or its more recent insidious form neo-liberalism. For me the solution is obvious, we can’t address climate breakdown alone.

Climate Home News does a great job of summarising the new IPCC Special Report in this piece, and you can follow my twitter thread where I explain the root causes of the climate crisis and interlinked systems failure.

The capitalist system encourages us to think, live, produce and consume as individuals. Everything has a price and all interactions and engagements are seen as transactional. The economy is extractive rather than generative. Local and community driven solutions, traditions, and practices that are not deemed to produce value for the system or do not yield profit for the share holders are either discarded or actively shut down. The system also backed by white supremacy treats Indigenous People and People of Color the same way it treats products and waste — as disposable. It takes away autonomy from people of color and destroys local economies. This is how racism and class warfare are intrinsic to the system.

Deeply rooted in colonialism the assumption that indigenous local knowledge has little value or place in scientific, technology & policy driven solutions is one of my biggest frustrations with the environmental and climate movements, which I was (and in some ways am still) a part of for over 15 years. The loss of indigenous and local knowledge and more so undermining and erasure of it has done a lot of harm not to only the planet but the people. A lot of indigenous practices of caring for nature and the resources it provides in abundance, are based in spiritual traditions. And because spirituality is considered an anthesis to the scientific method these practices were considered inferior. It’s sad to reflect on this fact as many celebrated Indigenous People’s Day yesterday.

Competition is how capitalism manifests itself in people. It makes us think that we as individuals matter over the collective. This is us not getting the instant gratification that capitalism has gotten us so used to. It’s how it fuels consumerism. It’s turned people into consumers and clients and has given corporations rights- rights that even some people don’t have.

“Individualism is a system of oppression — the assumption that the maturing of a human being should be in the direction of self-sufficiency. Consumerism is build upon recruiting people out of relationship and into consumption of goods and services. Thats a culture fundamentally, of competition and isolation” — Cedar Landsman

Women, transgender, disabled, gender non-confirming and two spirited people are creatively transforming their way of living and challenging unjust and unsustainable systems, yet are rarely seen in the corridors of power and are excluded from most spaces. This is how sexism, heteronormativity and ableism are in entrenched in the system.

Race, class, culture, gender and sexuality are intrinsically connected. Oppression is systemic and intersected, as are its methods and the people targeted by it. The marginalised are at the frontlines in the struggle against climate chaos but they are also the ones most impacted. Their voices need to be centred. Their stories are only theirs to share. How they want to direct change then also needs to come from them.

Often solutions presented to deal with climate breakdown are actions and policies to harness or limit resources considered ‘underutilised’ or ‘overutilised’, leading to contestations over rights and entitlements. They are based on the narrative of scarcity. Scarcity is contingent, contextual, relational and above all political. While there are and should be limits to growth and we have to live within planetary boundaries, these prescriptive and very paternalistic solutions focus more on what is economically and technologically feasible rather than focus on how the resources are being controlled, used and most importantly distributed.

In recent years some have gone beyond these technocratic solutions and have talked about distribution of resources, emissions inequality, apathy, taking up the cause as practice and even degrowth, I feel they still don’t go to the heart of the problem. They don’t analyse the climate crisis with an intersectional lens which looks at power dynamics nor as a result of exiting systems failure. It’s always presented as something external. I want to reframe it as something internal. To me it’s a reflection of not only the world we’ve created but our own selves.

That’s why I’m proposing a cultural shift. I want to cultivate a counter culture where we as individuals and as collective have value. I’m co-opting the term ‘culture of care’ from the healthcare sector and Pope Francis’ Encyclical Laudato si’. And presenting the culture of care as an approach and vision for being in this world. It needs to become a futurist practice. It is about caring for why we are on the earth and what our shared and individual purposes are. A culture of care goes beyond human bodies, it is in how we care for every being and resource on earth. It creates community. It operates from a frame of abundance, timefulness, and interconnection instead of scarcity, isolation and indifference. To create a culture of care is to value contemplative inquiry and reflection and intentionally make space for it. It requires caring for what may emerge out of our reflection and the willingness to adapt. It means caring for our minds, bodies, and spirits, to invest in rest and taking radical pauses. It means investing in each other.

Stopping climate breakdown needs collective awareness, analysis and action. It requires dismantling existing interconnected systems of oppresion. In order to do that we have to build lasting, authentic and equal relationships with each other. Transformational change doesn’t come from policies and laws alone, it comes from collaborating on care.

“Care is the antidote to violence” — Saidiya Hartman #CultureOfCare