Environmental Justice in Greenland
From Greenland to the Marshall Islands: a poetic call to slow global warming
By Marie Courtais, 2018-11-11

The following article will approach environmental justice through a video produced by The Guardian and the NGO 350.org. In the given video, two environmental activists use poetry to showcase the future of their homes with climate change. From one side, Aka Niviana: descendent from aboriginal arctic populations, this 23-year-old aged activist from Greenland (Denmark) started to appear on the activism's scene after having recited a poem at a recent Copenhagen climate protest. On the other side, Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner, a renown more experimented environmental activist and poet from the Marshall Islands, in the Pacific. In this video, they wanted to cover their consternation facing the effects of Climate change on their respective country.

Rise : a poetry expedition to Greenland's melting glaciers (video):

This oxymoron between Borealis and Australis (north and south), west and east, and cold and warm highlights that everything is one. There is no polarization or duality possible between the Arctic circle and Pacific Micronesia; instead it exists a linear continuity between them: "One poet watches her heritage turn to water; the other watches that same water sweep up the beaches of her country and into the houses of her friends." Thus, what happens in the the Global North affects the arid Arctic, which has repercussion on the Global South nations in the Pacific:"The carbon that the rich pour into the air traps heat in the atmosphere we all share. That heat comes north and south, where it melts the world's great storehouses of ice; in turn the oceans that lap at every continent rise."

While the two activists intone for their land, the Guardian article about the video assesses that Greenland has enough water frozen on its rocky mantle to raise the sea by seven metres. The item is notably oriented towards climate change scientific facts and the concern for ices melting worldwide.
However, as environmental justice community, some details kept our attention. On the one hand, the reference quoted above of "the rich" pouring the air "we all share" refers to the idea Environmental Justice at a global scale: indeed, a minor part of the world referred to as the "Global North" functions through a saturated way of industrialization, which participate predominantly to global warning. Meanwhile, a major part of the world referred to as "the Global South" participate in monitory to global warming, but is already mainly impacted by its consequences. "Do we deserve the melting ice, the hungry polar bears coming to our islands on the colossal icebergs hitting these waters with rage?" asked the two protagonists. This disparity of production and impacts at global scale is a core preoccupation in EJ research.
On the other hand, poetic connexions made in the video reflect some protests and believes shared with the Environmental Justice community. Indeed, there is a high presence of indigenous culture from both activists with tales and cultural myths recounting the story of "the land of [their] ancestors". Indigenous ontologies facing modern world mechanisms and specifically in terms of relations to nature is also a recurrent call in EJ.

As a conclusion, this piece full of grace makes an implicit reference to a severe issue the international community start to face: climate change-related forced displacements. Indeed, with the sea-level rising starting to recover the SIDS (Small Islands Developing Countries) in the Pacific Ocean. As a complement, a previous article of the EJI had been dedicated to the issue of climate refugees and the recognition of their status at international scale, while SIDS governors assess : "We do not want to leave our land!"

About 350.org

350.org is an international environmental organization addressing climate change through climate justice and anti-fossil fuel grass-roots campaigns of communication and protests. 350.org counts in its board members famous activists and thinkers such as Bill McKibben or Naomi Klein.

Image: © Guardian