This post by Julie Raymond is part a series from the members of the AAA delegation at the UN Climate Change Conference in Bonn, Germany.
In 2015, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s). The 17 SDG’s are a road map intended to guide action that balances human needs with environmental health. The goals are a global agenda, a to-do list, that will end poverty, inequality and achieve environmental sustainability by 2030. The SDG’s are: no poverty; zero hunger; good health and well-being; quality education; gender equality; clean water and sanitation; affordable and clean energy; decent work and economic growth; industry, innovation and infrastructure; reduced inequalities; sustainable cities and communities; responsible construction and production; climate action; life below water; life on land; peace, justice and strong institutions; and partnerships for the goals.
The Paris Agreement is a complimentary instrument to the SDG’s goals that addresses climate change. The impacts of climate change will increase poverty, vulnerability, and reduce economic productivity. It will increase forced migration and reduce health and well-being. Climate change will exacerbate existing problems addressed by the SDG’s and, if unaddressed, will cause new ones. Development is eroded by climate change. Together the Paris Agreement and SDG’s work to coordinate the agendas of the global community so that priorities and outcomes achieve the targets necessary to keep the global temperature low enough that society can correct the inequalities that burden our world.
The AAA contingent at COP-23 (the 23rd meeting of the Conference of Parties since the UNFCCC was organized in 1992) is standing in the vortex of the global effort to change humanities course. For the next 12 days I will report the things I see and hear, hoping that the work ahead of us will call to you too. Anthropology is special; the things we know and think about as professionals are necessary for human progress. The human capacity for adaptation, to be curious, imagine, innovate and create solutions is our torment and the saving grace of our species. It is possible to create a world with a great deal less suffering. Ethnographers of the future may be doing field research on communities that were restored, environments that thrive and an archaeological record that shows human intervention also changed things for the better.
In 2009 environmentalist, entrepreneur and author Paul Hawken gave a Commencement Speech at Portland State University, in the speech he said,
“This extraordinary time when we are globally aware of each other and the multiple dangers that threaten civilization has never happened, not in a thousand years, not in ten thousand years. Each of us is as complex and beautiful as all the stars in the universe… Nature beckons you to be on her side. You couldn’t ask for a better boss… YOU ARE BRILLIANT, AND THE EARTH IS HIRING. The earth couldn’t afford to send any recruiters or limos to your school. It sent you rain, sunsets, ripe cherries, night blooming jasmine, and that unbelievably cute person you are dating. Take the hint. And here’s the deal: Forget that this task of planet-saving is not possible in the time required. Don’t be put off by people who know what is not possible. Do what needs to be done, and check to see if it was impossible only after you are done.”
We are here rolling up our sleeves, ready to do what needs to be done.
Julie Raymond is a doctoral fellow at Idaho State University. Learn more about the work anthropologists are doing in climate change research on the AAA website.