Towards A Greener, More Equitable World
Mary Robinson grew up in the west country of Ireland, the middle child and only girl in a family with four brothers. Quickly on she learned about social equity and the need to assert herself. Those lessons served her well as she eventually found herself elected the President of Ireland and then the United Nations High Commissioner.
In this address to a gala dinner audience on the eve of the 40th Anniversary of Earth Day, she focuses on the need for energy and environmental equity, driven by her life-long passion for human rights. Today, her attention is on the human impact of globalization and climate change, especially in Africa, where the perception among the poor is that "the world is falling apart" as their climate turns chaotic and unpredictable.
She believes the emissions of the developed, and increasingly developing world, are largely responsible for the climatic changes that are devastating the lives of rural communities around the planet. There is clearly a link between our lifestyles and the social injustice plaguing the lives of billions of people.
"I feel we need to change the icons of climate," she says. " It's not just polar bear on the shrinking ice flow... or the glacier in the distance. It's humanity. It's human beings. The face of climate justice to me is the... indigenous woman, probably with a large family coping with her neighbors, feeling very stressed, because she was all right in a very poor way, but now, even that's being undermined, and what does she do?"
Ms. Robinson asks the audience of NGOs, environmentalists, venture capitalists, entrepreneurs, and government workers what is social justice?
"For me, it is very forward looking... It's about development justice. It's about insuring we provide, out of our knowledge, skills and potential, the leap-frogging of the poorest into better, clean energy. It's clean energy for the 1.6 billion people in the world today who have no access to electricity, which in my view is quasi-crimminal. Why not? How could we have a world where 1.6 billion people don't have access to electricity?"
While most foreign aid has focused on the basic necessities of life, what we need, Robinson believes, is a similar revolution in energy that the mobile phone has brought to the poor in Africa and India in what is nothing short of a communications revolution.
She urges the entrepreneurs in the ballroom to address the small solar, hydro and wind generation market for the poor.
"Create that market, and it's a huge and increasing market into which millions will be born."
She concludes by urging the linking of the dialogue about creating climate wealth and the needs of the planet's poor."
"As a grandmother, it will make the planet more secure for my grandchildren."
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