Creative Dundee

TFP2: Tilda Williams-Kelly

Design by Duncan Barton

The Full Picture #2 has been a Creative Dundee project in partnership with the Gate Church Carbon Saving Project. This piece is by artist Tilda Williams-Kelly.

This project centers around the question of how we can build a local and collective climate justice movement. You can read the other artist’s blog here. We will soon be sharing both the artworks they have created in response to the research. You can read the other artist’s blog here. We will soon be sharing both the artworks they have created in response to the research.

The text below, and the project as a whole, share a goal of providing a platform to local artists to speak on key issues that effect them. They are not editorials from Creative Dundee or the Gate Church Carbon Saving Project, but instead provide a platform for the personal exploration and perspective of each artist.

Climate justice not only refers to environmental activism, but to the ethics involved in climate change; in that those who have contributed the least to the problem, suffer the most. To fairly tackle the problems we face, we must consider environmental activism within a political and economic framework.

In our class-divided society, there are extreme disparities in people’s ability to be climate-conscious, and the consequences they feel as the planet warms. People of colour in developing countries suffer inhumane working conditions (globally, less than 2% of 75 million garment workers make what is considered a living wage), and subsequently are hit hardest by the environmental impact of chemicals, dyes, and synthetic fibres that pollute the air, soil and water supply surrounding these factories. Indigenous people account for less than 5% of the human population yet are protecting 80% of its biodiversity.

Priority on emphasising proletarian ‘choices,’ like going plastic-free and limiting power usage is a tactic that manipulates the narrative cooperatively with the capitalist colonial power, that protects the rich and screws the poor. The working class are affected worse by climate change as poorer areas have increased pollution exposure (in the UK people of colour are more likely to live in poorer areas), and are less able to ‘shop green’ or avoid cheaper synthetic fabrics, then are blamed for their ‘consumption habits,’ a demonising strategy that allows the true perpetrators to continue exploiting the masses.

Unsurprisingly, being a woman increases your risk of the negative impacts of climate change, due to established modes of gender discrimination: access to basic human rights; free movement and land ownership; and an increased risk of poverty and violence (worsens in strained environments). Intersectional factors like race, class and sexual orientation, will also make significant positive/negative changes.  

The systematic disparities involved in climate change are numerous, but the question at hand is on a local movement, so how is Dundee doing? With its 59 parks, Dundee is a green city that celebrates its green and urban spaces, and a number of small organisations are making headlines. Extinction Rebellion staged a protest outside the V&A Dundee, whose Mary Quant exhibition, was sponsored by Barclays Bank (failure to ban tar sands funding). Addressing the epidemic of food waste and poverty; the Community Fridge on Perth Road, run by Gate Church Carbon Saving Project, saved 78 tonnes of food, fed over 1100 people and saved 283 tonnes of CO2e (2020). Hundreds of school pupils protested in the City Square against government dismissal of the climate crisis (2019), exemplifying the commitment to environmentalism we are seeing among our younger population.   

While we are seeing positive active engagement in the climate justice movement, there is a lack of diverse voices, in a largely white middle class run movement, resulting in exclusion of diverse experiences representative of our societies, whose voices are crucial to a productive movement. Further complexified by a lack of unified momentum leading the cause, but instead multiple groups with a Venn diagram of aims.

Navigating this situation is tricky: every effort in combatting climate change is surely good, ostracising one another for methods of helping feels counterproductive. Yet, without diverse voices, the issues become main-streamed, which can lead to meaningless acts of performative activism. Hatred for performative activism is largely misplaced on individuals, not the companies performing for consumer support without implementing genuinely helpful environmental standards and continuing to exploit human rights. Fashion brands promise to switch to ‘sustainably sourced’ clothing lines, with no definition on what this means in terms of workers’ living wage, synthetic materials, pollution or any other major harmful results of the fast fashion industry.

There is strategy in placing blame on the average person for their recycling and air travel habits. The truth is, it is the greed and exploitative nature of the few, that affect the many. Ensuing the blame game and wasting time pointing fingers is to perform in a ritualistic capitalist dance in which the only solution is more.

Scientists say we now have less than 7 years to reverse the damage done by climate change.

I urge you to read that again. Yes, please recycle, be environmentally conscious and what you can do, you should do. However, more importantly, know this: 71 % of emissions worldwide are attributed to just 100 companies, the wealthiest people on our planet produce half of global carbon emissions, the poorest only 10%, the top richest 16% use 80% of the planet’s natural resources.

Audre Lorde said that the master’s tools will not dismantle the master’s house, but that does not mean we can’t use different tools. The 3.5 rule refers to the fact that every protest that has had 3.5% of population participation, has affected governmental change. Read that again.

So how can we build a local and collective climate justice movement?

I don’t have an answer for that question, however it’s clear that with empathy for each other, understanding and engaging however we can, can we begin to deal with this. Resist the urge to be convinced your voice does not matter, don’t accept the fate of the planet and remember who the real culprits are.

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