Post #5 – Aaron Pellish

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.

Post #4 – Aaron Pellish

After reading the essay from Sheila Watt-Cloutier about how climate change is affecting her home, I was impressed by how she was able to use her own situation to shift the ideas of climate change from abstract concepts and overwhelming problems like global warming and waste management into one’s of humanity and compassion. Frankly, I thought it was an incredibly clever argumentative tool. And I do think, aside from Watt-Cloutier’s arguments, that we have an obligation to take care of our planet. But I don’t think that her argument could ever move the needle politically or globally because it doesn’t shift the conversation around climate change to a place that has merited more action or attention in the past.

The wit in Watt-Cloutier’s essay comes from the fact that she is able use her own plight and the plight of her people as a way to reimagine climate change as an issue involving people rather than science. When climate change is discussed, it is frequently done so in terms of the lifespan of the earth or the amount of money it could save us over time to take care of our planet. On a personal level, these arguments are generally pretty effective, but on a corporate and governmental level, these arguments are much less effective, because governments and corporations are inherently short-sided and are structurally motivated to think in short time frames, whether it be the time frame between elections or the time frame between contract negotiations. Watt-Cloutier wants us to think less about time and more about people, and she argues that governments will do more to fight human rights violations because they so loudly proclaim the importance of human rights. But corporations have historically been negligent of human rights, so that argument will not effect their actions. And with governments, Watt-Cloutier is essentially calling their bluff. If they were to ignore this human rights violation, nothing would happen and there would be no consequences because the same thing has happened before.

In fact, this ties into one particular episode in French governmental history that I think undermines what Watt-Cloutier is trying to argue. In 1985, the DGSE (the French foreign intelligence service, the French CIA) organized an operation that led to the bombing of Greenpeace’s flagship vessel, the Rainbow Warrior. Greenpeace was planning on protesting at the site of a French nuclear trial. They had agents infiltrate the Greenpeace offices in Auckland, New Zealand, and scout the ship. Then they sent in two agents to place a pair of bombs on the boat, which were designed to sink the boat without hurting any one. However, one photographer on board was killed during the second explosion. New Zealand investigators were quickly able to identify that the French were involved in the attack, leading to the prosecution of two of the agents and the resignation of Charles Hernu, the French Defense Minister at the time.

I think this incident proves a couple of things. First, that France has a shaky history regarding the incorporation and acceptance of environmental advocacy groups. Second, there is a track record of governments ignoring both environmental and human rights concerns, even in the West, if it means doing things the way they want to do them. And so, while I am impressed with Watt-Cloutier’s argument, I am also very jaded towards the likelihood of its effectiveness.

Post #3 – Aaron Pellish

Nationalism is a social movement that exists in every type of nation. It is a rise in prideful sentiment towards one’s own country. Generally, it is weaponized to counteract the fears that normally arise during the globalization and cultural integration of a country. In France, it famously played out during the French Revolution and during the Napoleonic era, where French citizens felt entitled to certain resources and structural rights as French people. Nationalism worked against them in World War II, when the nationalistic Nazi party conquered France for a few years before being defeated in 1945. Obviously, nationalism can be beneficial, in the case of the French Revolution, which helped liberate a people from monarchy and establish a sense of national pride in the country. But the direct consequence of that nationalism was the Reign of Terror, which used nationalism to justify the unjust killings of many honest French people. In this sense, nationalism is a very fickle social and political phenomenon.

In the current age of globalization and interconnected economies, Zakaria warns that nationalism can interfere with the peaceful cooperation of nations. In a sense, a portion of the beginning of Zakaria’s “Post-American World” frames nationalism as a pesky form of governmental entitlement. He talks about how newly strong nations are itching to receive recognition and respect from established powers, and that urgency to be recognized for greatness could cause geopolitical friction which could further impede the already messy business of international governmental cooperation.

In France, a good example of this was when the French people voted against adopting the European Union constitution in 2005. The “Non” vote has since been viewed as a pushback to the idea of losing French identity, which is rooted in the principal values of nationalism. French people wanted France to maintain as much of its autonomy as an indicator of their belief in France as a country and as an idea. Zakaria also alludes to this idea of nationalism-as-protest in the second assigned reading from “Post-American World,” when he discusses clothing. He mentions that Gandhi insisted upon wearing traditional clothes as a revolt against British tariffs and British colonization of India. In these two incidents, nationalism was yielded peacefully and honestly. It becomes much more problematic, however, when that nationalism is defined by the elimination of other nations, which is something that France’s National Front party, led by Marine Le Pen, has implicitly and explicitly endorsed to great acclaim among some French residents.

Inequality plays a huge role in France. Social inequality and economic inequality are often overlapped, leading to the systematic marginalization of certain groups of people. In many cases these people tend to be black Muslims. Here’s an article from the New Yorker in which the author speaks to residents of poor neighborhoods outside of Paris who are turned down from jobs because they have an address in a poor neighborhood and a Muslim name on their application. So this type of inequality exists in France, and it is very much a large issue. The problem is that the National Front party is gaining popularity in France, and they, along with other popular right-wing parties in France, are either blind to these inequalities or actively working towards widening those inequalities, which creates an incredibly tricky situation for marginalized poor Muslims in France. As the New Yorker article points out, some of those Muslims turn to extreme Islam because they have no other outlets, which is an incredibly tragedy on behalf of the French government.