Rising sea levels make the island nation of Kiribati one of the countries in the world most exposed to climate change. Photo: United Nations Photo. Source: Flickr.

Guest chronicle

Who will scoop and who will row?

We waited a long time for the international climate summit in Glasgow, the summit that would lead the way to a sustainable society. But now afterwards, when I sit on my bike in the rain, it feels like I'm the only one who cares, why is that? It writes sustainability specialist Sofia Jonson.

We're in the same boat. Or maybe not, maybe we're just sitting in boats all together. Some of us in expensive luxury hunts while others have to switch between scooping and rowing. Climate change affects everyone, but not everyone is affected in the same way. Which boat you are in makes a difference. So what do we have to do to get ashore together?

In November, thousands of people gathered in Glasgow for the international climate summit COP26. Politicians, academics, business representatives and the civilian population came together to discuss the climate issue. But despite the huge push, not everyone left the climate summit happy. Many returned home with frustration and despair, because climate change has a difficult property - it is hopelessly linked to many other social problems.

When we talk about sustainability work, it is easy to say that we should phase out the oil industry, but it is difficult to tell a poor population that petrol prices will rise. It is easy to say that we must reduce meat production, but it is difficult to tell meat farmers that they need to retrain. It is easy to demand change in the industry, but it is difficult to talk about how and where the money will come from. As a group, we all benefit from working for a more sustainable society, but that does not mean that the way forward is easy for everyone involved. Both climate change and its solutions therefore affect everyone in different ways. The circumstances we live in determine both how we are affected and what opportunity we have to participate in change.

So, not everyone at the conference was happy, and perhaps this frustration is shared by many. Sometimes when I sit on the bike I wonder why not everyone does as I do. Why not take all the environmental issues seriously and cycle to work? In those moments, I forget that my perspective does not reflect the truth. I forget that not everyone has it like me.

Because I have never needed an ear or peace. My boat is one of the few that floats really well, and that can probably carry through one or two storms. I have running water in the tap, a grocery store around the corner, and the opportunity to work from home. For me, climate change is something I read about in the newspapers, but which I do not experience everyday. For me, change is easy, but inconvenient. For me, change is wet bike rides to the train station, less choice in the closet and a more boring diet. It's annoying, but possible.

When we sit in our own little boat, we forget to look at the world through the eyes of others. We do not see all those who work far from home without access to reliable local transport. We do not see all those who suffer when their arable land no longer bears a harvest. Those who face economic problems, poverty or maybe even starvation. We also do not see all those who lack electricity and cook over an open fire. But if we are to row in port all together, we must remember all the people. For something that is a solution for me, is not necessarily a solution for others.

To succeed, we must accept that we all have different conditions, experiences and abilities. The solutions must be adapted to each local situation. Sustainability and climate change are difficult issues because they are closely linked to our societies and our culture. Which boat we are in affects both what our future looks like - and what we can and should do.

This is a guest column. The writer is responsible for analysis and opinions in the text.

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