Europe is an interesting example of how to deal with environmental regulations and human rights. France, for example, only has so much wiggle room with which to independently pursue actions that would advance environmental issues and human rights because France is a member of several international organizations which regulate and mediate the ways those actions take form. The European Union has certain benchmarks for energy consumption that each member state must meet, and there is not a lot of room to work outside of that. The United Nations’ chief cause is protecting the human rights of every person in the world and prosecuting those who disobey human rights, and France, as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, is beholden to the constrictions of UN regulation. So on one hand, France does play a role in dealing with those issues. But on the other hand, France’s role in those issues extends only as far as larger international organizations will allow it.
There is a specific relationship between climate change and human rights that both Elizabeth Lindsay and Sheila Watt-Cloutier mentioned in their TEDTalk and essay respectively. There are many communities in the world which have heightened relationships with the environment. More than just superficially, these communities depend on the environment for their culture, their food, their water, their identity, sometimes their religion, but most importantly their human identity. And when changes in the climate change the landscape or environment in substantial ways, it affects the identity of these people, it affects their heritage, and it threatens to endanger them. As I said in my post last week, I think the idea of connecting environmental threats to personal and cultural erasure of heritage is a very clever persuasive technique, and it works very well on ordinary people who appreciate the importance of heritage in one’s personal identity. But I think that this persuasive technique has ceiling on its effectiveness, and it is unlikely to change the way we act as a society, because it is unlikely to sway the hearts and minds of governments and corporations who are motivated by factors and priorities which have nothing to do with the culture and heritage of minority populations. We’ve seen governments and corporations ignore these pleas for representation from minority populations be willfully ignored in the past, so there is no reason to assume it will work yet again.
In “Beyond Eurocentrism,” Farish Noor talks about the relationship between Western ideology and the various ideologies of the rest of the world and argues that the separation of those ideologies is detrimental to our ability to coexist peacefully in a globalized society. Noor defines eurocentrism as “the emerging perception within the European cultural, historical experience of European identity as good and all other forms as less good or less advanced.” In going beyond eurocentrism, Noor implores Western society to shed this form of elitism, embrace the ideologies of the non-Western world and incorporate them into Western society in order to have a greater empathy and cultural understanding of non-Western nations which are otherwise treated as unsafe, un-advanced, and exotic.