Why the Everest Sherpa tragedy is an analogy for climate change

There’s an obvious link between the Everest Sherpa tragedy and climate change; the world is warming, meaning ice and snow at the top of Everest is at risk of melting at an increased rate, and that avalanches of snow, rock or ice may increase. The Atlantic declared 2014 as ‘The Year Climate Change Closed Everest’.

But I think the tragedy is also a useful analogy for climate change as a whole.

Photo copyright ilkerender (http://tinyurl.com/p78m52t)

Photo copyright ilkerender (http://tinyurl.com/p78m52t)

Climate change is happening – and it’s caused by humans

The world’s climate – like the climate of Everest – is changing. This is a direct result of human activities. And in Everest, instability  is exacerbated by huge increases in the number of climbers: in the late 1970s, only a handful of climbers reached the top every year. In 2012, more than 500 did. This sharp rise in climbers is just like the sharp rise in CO2 emissions since the Industrial Revolution.

Climate change is already affecting people’s lives

Contrary to what many people believe, climate change isn’t some faraway problem that our children’s children will have to deal with. It’s happening now, with deadly effects – as the families of those killed in the avalanche know only too well.

Climate change is disproportionately hitting the poorest

Those worst affected by the effects of climate change – like those affected by the Everest disaster – are the poorest. Not the climbers, who pay up to £45,000 to summit the peak, but the sherpas, who “carry the heaviest loads and pay the highest prices” – their lives. And globally, it is the poorest, especially those in tropical and sub-tropical regions,  who will be hit hardest – the very same people who are currently have the least food security.

We’re not doing enough to help the poorest adapt to a changing climate

Climate change-aggravated extreme weather, floods, droughts, and sea level rises are already a daily reality in many developing countries. In 2009, to kick start adaptation efforts to deal with this reality, rich countries committed to provide $30bn of funding between 2010-2012. But only 20% of these funds have been received. This is nowhere near enough to help people cope with the large-scale effects of climate change – just as the compensation package  of £245 per life has been deemed insufficient by the mourning families of the Sherpas killed in April.

People are taking action – but governments aren’t listening yet

Following the disaster on Everest, the Sherpas are protesting by refusing to climb Everest this season. They’re taking a stand to protect their mountain – just like the millions of people worldwide taking a stand to protect the earth and its inhabitants from catastrophic climate change.

 

You can read more about the history and culture of Sherpas in this beautiful article from National Geographic.

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Figureheads at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich

Figureheads at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich

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African men. Hollywood stereotypes. And Edward Said.

Whilst perusing the internet last night I came across this great video by Mama Hope:

It definitely hits the nail on the head about representations of Africa here in the West, and does so with a big smile! It also reminded me of Oxfam’s current GROW campaign, and the campaign’s big adverts in newspapers which seek to change perceptions of Africa:

I love these adverts, although it does annoy me that they don’t state where the photos were taken, doing nothing to dispel the all-too-common perception of Africa as a single, amorphous country, instead of the gigantic continent with more than 50 discrete, heterogeneous countries which it actually is.

Mainstream representations of Africa can be understood as framed as ‘the other’, a concept most eloquently and excellently addressed by Edward Said in his book Orientalism, with regards to Western attitudes to the Middle East . For anyone interested in post-colonial representation, it’s a must-read:

My contention is that Orientalism is fundamentally a political doctrine willed over the Orient because the Orient was weaker than the West, which elided the Orient’s difference with its weakness….As a cultural apparatus Orientalism is all aggression, activity, judgment, will-to-truth, and knowledge (Orientalism, p. 204).

Definitely some food for thought to mull over this weekend. Happy Easter!

Georgi

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Guest post: My Lent 2013 So Far…

Here’s a special guest post from George on giving up crisps, chocolate and meat for Lent. I didn’t actually give anything up this year, but I’m proud of him for doing so. In a time of unparalleled availability of foods from around the world in any season, from supermarkets open 24/7, it’s always good to exercise restraint and to take control of what you eat.

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Why did I decide to do this? When did I choose to give up things that I enjoy? Who persuaded me into this semi-religious mumbo-jumbo for Christ’s sake?!

I have asked myself a few questions like these when turning down a delicious looking meal or a cheeky midday snack as of late. I’m not religious and never have been, but this year the idea of giving something up for lent has really appealed. But where to start? As a kid I had once or twice given up chocolate for lent and, looking back, it probably was a great lesson in restraint.

So I would give up chocolate. Right, that’s easy.  My only concern was what I would turn to when I needed to fill the chocolate-y void in my stomach…Pringles were possibly my Achilles-heel. Oh you MSG packed, starchy, reconstituted potato-y little tease! Crisps also had to bite the bullet as well.

But that just didn’t seem like enough. It was time to take on the vegetarians at their own game!

In the last few years I have surrounded myself with loving, caring and beautiful vegetarians, and now was the time to suck it up and give vegetarianism a go. If they can do it, so can I. So meat and fish were also now on my blacklist.

Shrove Tuesday came and went in a flurry of pancakes and chocolate. I started the day with a bacon sandwich, and at work those of us making a vow for the next 40 days and nights gorged ourselves with biscuits, chocolates and crisps.

Apart from the odd temptation here and there it’s been plain sailing all the way. And there has only been one occasion that I’ve had to throw away any food (I ordered a take away one lazy night, and the rice came with bacon sprinkled on top!)

So with only 1 day to go until Easter I’ve taken the time to reflect on the last few weeks.

I think why I really wanted to give something up for lent is because it means I have had more of a say on what I eat. I have never been a picky eater and I have always been very open to trying new things; this also means that I will generally eat anything and everything put in front of me.

In all honesty it would be better if I was able to not eat the crap food I shovel in my gob all year round. So knowing that I have at least done it for 40 days should make it easier in the future to turn down unhealthy snacks.

And on reflection I have to admit there have been some real positives, not only for my own health but also for the environment and locally. Not eating chocolate has meant that I have eaten a lot of fruit instead, and the vast majority of that has been grown in the UK (I’ve probably eaten my own weight in apples and pears!) so I have been supporting British farmers. Not eating meat for a month won’t stop deforestation, but it has definitely decreased my carbon foot-print.

These may have not been the reasons at the outset, but I am very happy to think of the benefits that not eating can have.

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Carrot cake contemplation

When I’ve got a lot on my mind, I find that cooking helps me to think. Or helps me to not think, if that’s what I need.

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Today I baked this carrot cake from the Clandestine Cake Club book as I contemplated starting a new job and moving to a new city. It helped me to feel much calmer…and it tasted great, too!

Georgi

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Reblog: We Cannot Shop our Way to Food Justice

We Cannot Shop our Way to Food Justice.

A fantastic article on the food justice movement, which points out how ‘the contemporary food movement…has predominantly been white’. Definitely food for thought: campaigns on food justice need to include and listen to everybody in order to be successful.

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Behind the Brands: Oxfam GROW Campaign

A few weeks ago Oxfam launched their ‘Behind the Brands‘ campaign, part of their wider GROW food justice campaign.

The website is fantastic: well designed and highly interactive. By clicking on your favourite brand, ranging from Twinings to Tropicana, and from Pringles to Pataks, you can find out which of the top ten massive food and beverage corporations own it, and how well they score on a range of criteria. The criteria include Land, Water, Women and Climate, and the corporations are marked from 1-10. You can then share this information on social media, or contact the company itself to demand change.

What I really like about this website is the tone it uses. It doesn’t say “These brands are bad, don’t buy them!” but instead adopts a far more positive, friendly, and nuanced approach which says to consumers “These are your favourite products, use your influence to force these companies to change”. This is a step away from the all-too often black-and-white approach to campaigning, in which a company/country/individual is painted as inherently and simplistically ‘bad’. It’s also a very clever way of attacking the public face of corporations, because as Chris Jochnick, director of Oxfam America’s Private Sector Department points out in this blog, brands are ‘by far their most valuable asset’.

All of the top 10 companies have now responded: read their replies here, and make up your own mind about how committed they are to producing food in a sustainable and equitable manner. From what I can tell, they still have a long way to go, and Behind the Brands is an important step in the journey to a future where everyone always has enough to eat.

Georgi

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