read in French

A large part of the struggle for climate justice takes place in the global South. We share two perspectives, one from the Philippines in the Western Pacific Ocean and one from Brazil in Latin America.

Maria Rowena A. Buena has been with Masipag (Farmer Scientist Partnership for Development) for 23 years and has spent many years in the research, education and capacity building of farmers in the field of organic agriculture production and marketing, PGS (Participatory Guarantee System) development and lobbying for PGS recognition in the Philippines. She is the Regional Coordinator for Masipag Luzon and the Asia Representative to the IFOAM PGS Committee.


Edmundo Hoppe Oderich is a member of the World Rainforest Movement (WRM) in Brazil, an international initiative that aims to contribute to the struggles, reflections and political actions of forest-dependent peoples, indigenous peoples, peasants and other communities in the global South. Edmundo works closely with different organisations and movements such as la Via Campesina. He has also worked at state level on the formulation and implementation of public policies in favour of farmers in southern Brazil. He is an agronomist with a PhD in rural development.


1. In your perspective, what is the so-called climate crisis?

MRAB: Many people use the term “climate crisis” to describe the worsening effects of climate change. Given the vulnerability of our country, where typhoons hit more than 20 times per year, while the government has limited capacity (and ability) to respond to the effects of climate change, I would say that our country has been in a climate crisis for many years now and the situation is deteriorating as the environment is continuously being plundered while the obvious consequences, impacts and the call of the people to stop these thoughtless activities are ignored.


EHO:It is now widely accepted that when we talk about the climate crisis, we are referring to the set of increasingly serious environmental problems caused by climate change as a result of human activities based on fossil fuels. But this rather generic definition doesn’t really help us understand the context of the crisis, both in terms of its causes and its consequences. To this end, it seems more useful to look at the climate crisis as an environmental manifestation of inequality. It may seem an unusual starting point, but I think it’s the most useful one.

The historical process that led to fossil fuels becoming the engine of the world economy was made possible by an inequality that lies at the heart of the social structure in which we live. This inequality has meant that a small section of society – mostly white, male and from the global North – has come to control an increasingly large part of the productive structure, largely determining the direction and pace of humanity’s “development”. Now, if we agree that the fossil fuel-based structure of production is the main cause of the climate crisis, then the small part of society that controls it is precisely the main sponsor of the climate crisis.

Inequality is not only remarkable in the origins of the climate crisis, but also in its consequences. Ideas such as environmental justice and environmental racism have helped to highlight how the peoples and communities who have benefited the least from the gigantic global economic growth provided by fossil fuels are the most vulnerable and those who have suffered the most from the consequences of global warming, being typically non-white and located in the global South.

2. How do you face the climate crisis in your daily life?

MRAB:I have been with MASIPAG for the last 23 years, so I would say that my daily life is tied to the daily struggles and triumphs of MASIPAG farmers. Although my family also struggles with the typhoons and the high cost of food after every typhoon or drought, it is quite minimal compared to the situation of the farmers and the poorest sector where every typhoon, flood, landslide, and severe drought also means the loss of livelihood, and sometimes, the life of a loved one.

As a development worker in the agricultural sector, I am very much aware that the farmers’ lives are tied to the environment and whatever happens to the environment would also affect their daily activities and eventually the fate of their livelihood. It is disheartening and at the same time infuriating to hear stories of failures and defeats of farmers who produce our food and still go hungry while the government and duty bearers sit down on their jobs. But as always, I try to transform these feelings into something productive and ideas as well as strategies to help the farmers.

I am grateful that many organizations have supported MASIPAG to reach out to as many farmers as possible so that they can become resilient, able to cope and struggle together with other farmers.


EHO: Here in Brazil, the most obvious consequences of the climate crisis might be changes in rainfall patterns and droughts. Episodes of unprecedented rainfall are becoming more frequent, causing floods, landslides, deaths and destruction of homes, usually affecting the most marginalized, vulnerable and non-white populations, reflecting the structural inequalities and racism. There are also regions of the country where seasonal droughts have gradually extended, making it increasingly difficult for traditional communities to survive.

Another consequence we have seen repeatedly in our work is the impact of implementing false solutions to the climate crisis, such as REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) projects for carbon markets. As an example, we recently exposed a case that has been going on since 2008 in Portel, in the state of Pará/Brazil. After almost 15 years of REDD projects, the results are: foreign carbon cowboys get rich selling carbon credits; companies from the global North, such as Repsol, Air France, Boeing, Amazon, and many others, benefit by claiming to offset their emissions and/or will become net-zero; traditional communities and local residents are cheated; public lands are used for private purposes.

Just like this case, we have seen many other situations in Latin America, Africa and Southeast Asia where the implementation of false solutions to the climate crisis has led to multiple violations of the rights of people who depend on forests. Land grabs, evictions, destruction of livelihoods, increased inequality and colonialism are also effects of the climate crisis in the daily lives of many people.


3. What is the major urgency we need to address among the multiple crises we face today?

MRAB:  Regarding the climate crisis, there is an urgent need to educate the citizens about the climate crisis and how serious the country’s situation is compared to other countries that are also affected by the hazards but have better capacities, so that they would act and demand accountability from the government and those who have historically caused climate change. The demands should include improving the capacities of the citizens, especially the financial and social infrastructure, to be able to reduce vulnerability, as this is primarily the responsibility of the government. To be more effective, they should tap into and engage the private sector to work with them, especially those who have been working on this issue.

Climate resilience is community action. Despite all the efforts of environmental groups, civil society organizations, and concerned citizens, if the government fails in its responsibility and facilitates the further destruction of the environment – countries like the Philippines will remain in its state as one of the most vulnerable countries to multiple crises in the world and the people will continue to suffer, lose their livelihoods, houses, even families and loved ones.

EHO: When we talk about the urgency of the multiple crises we face today, I think of the hunger of almost one billion people; I also think of the indigenous peoples whose rights continue to be systematically violated or who are even killed with the arrival of “development”; or of the various physical, psychological and symbolic violence suffered by women all over the world; and of the structural racism that permeates society, especially Western society. It is therefore difficult to speak of one major urgency. Ultimately, the urgent challenge is to ensure that those who are hungry and/or in danger are able to stay alive, but at the same time to dismantle the colonial and patriarchal structures, institutions and practices that are at the heart of the various urgencies and rebuild.

Specifically with regard to the climate crisis, perhaps the greatest urgency is to shift the focus away from false solutions such as carbon offsetting and toward the urgent need to effectively start reducing the use of fossil fuels. Conversely, global oil, gas and maybe even coal  outputs might reach record levels by the end of 2023.


4. What are the roots of the current multiple crises?

MRAB: Corporate control, neglect, corruption – a deadly combination that is quite common in countries that are most vulnerable to different kinds of crises. Although the Philippines’ contribution to the greenhouse gases is negligible, it is one of the most affected countries due to various factors such as its location and geophysical characteristics. It is further aggravated by the intensive use of environmental resources by corporations, which is also the cause of the global climate crisis. These corporations can enter and operate freely because the government allows them to do so in exchange for projects, infrastructure, and other contributions to the community or government. Large corporations with extensive land use conversion are one of the main causes of environmental degradation, leveling mountains for mining, building mega-dams, and clearing forests for large-scale plantations of palm oil trees, bananas, pineapples, and other items for export to other countries.

Developed countries, which continue to be major emitters of greenhouse gases, continue to neglect and ignore the international call to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But it is not only big corporations and big countries that are destroying the environment’s ability to protect itself from the effects of a changing climate. Local capitalists in key government positions are also contributing greatly to the continued destruction of nature. They are the very owners of the corporations that have leveled the mountains for subdivisions and coastal reclamation, while punishing the people who defend their rights, livelihoods and environment.

Misinformation has also caused the general public to be apathetic and critical of environmental issues and their impact on climate change and the crisis facing the country, instead of being critical of the issues they have become more critical of those who express concern and objection to such projects and destruction.

EHO:  Each of the multiple crises has its own peculiarities. However, it is possible to identify a common characteristic at the root of all of them, which is inequality in the self-determination of a people, a community or an individual. Inequality in the ownership of the means of production is at the root of class societies. Inequality in the conditions of control over a territory enables the colonial domination of elites over entire peoples and the destruction of these territories for their benefit. Physical and physiological inequalities were crucial for men to establish and justify patriarchal domination over women. Inequalities in access to and ability to disseminate information forge and perpetuate systems of values, beliefs, and norms that justify and help maintain the most diverse forms of oppression.

All of these inequalities reflect the asymmetries of power that allow structurally unjust and environmentally destructive socio-economic systems to be maintained.


5. What can we do as inviduals and communities to address the urgency ?

MRAB: As individuals, we should continue to campaign for and demand accountability and justice. As communities, we demand that existing environmental laws are implemented and allocated with enough budget, propose local environmental ordinances with stricter penalties for violators, and start programs to protect the environment with the local government. We should also engage the youth to work and take action because it is their future that is at stake.

Education is also essential to raise awareness about the climate crisis, so we should continue to educate every citizen about it through various media. It is also better that the campaign is appropriate to the sector targeted in order to be effective and stimulate discussion and, hopefully, action.

Despite the current state of affairs and the responses of longtime violators, citizens from the most vulnerable communities should continue to fight for their future.

EHO: If, on the one hand, there are no formulas for solving the many crises we are experiencing, on the other hand, history shows that there are certain basic conditions for achieving the changes we want in society. These include the fact that social changes cannot take place without the tripod of organization, political education and struggle. Organization, in the sense that only collective processes are capable of consolidating effective changes; political education, in the sense of collectively empowering ourselves to understand the underlying elements of the unjust social relations and systems in which we live; and struggle, because awareness and good will are not enough to put an end to the structural privileges that perpetuate the injustices of our time.