The former head of the United Nations Commission for Human Rights details the human rights dimension of climate change, showing how neglect by the powerful is already affecting the underprivileged around the globe.
Previously the first female president of Ireland, Robinson (Everybody Matters: My Life Giving Voice, 2013) had become increasingly involved with climate change and its human toll when her editor for her American publisher told her, “I would love for you to write a storytelling book about climate justice.” This is that book, a narrative of unlikely activists, mostly women, whose communities have experienced firsthand the devastating effects of global warming and have become proactive. The subtext here is giving voice to the previously voiceless, providing seats at the table not only for the powerful who are proceeding heedlessly, but for those who have been suffering devastating consequences: economic upheaval, starvation, and destruction inflicted by the policies of powerful countries on the other side of the globe. “In eastern Uganda there are no seasons anymore,” explains a farmer in that country. “Agriculture is a gamble….It was not until I went to a meeting about climate change that I heard it was not God but the rich people in the West who are doing this to us.” The book both begins and ends with Donald Trump’s decision to pull the United States out of the Paris Agreement, which had been negotiated after decades of attempts and failures to reach accord. “It is unconscionable,” writes the author, “that the United States has simply walked away from its responsibility to people both at home and abroad, in the interest of short-term fossil fuel profits.” Nonetheless, Robinson’s tone throughout is hopeful and optimistic, as one story after another finds accidental activists, primarily women, changing their own lives as well as those of their communities, accepting both the challenge and the responsibility of confronting the threat.
In a measured tone that is largely free of politicized rhetoric, the author tells engaging stories of extraordinary accomplishments by ordinary people.