29 September 2022

The Ethics of Environmental Sustainability in the Era of Climate Crisis

Benyasiri Eimviriyapong
AUN Programme Officer;

The ASEAN region has been known to hold the world’s most dynamic and diverse heritage of life both on land and under the sea. Despite covering only 3% of the world’s total land area, Southeast Asia is the native home to nearly 20% of the world’s known plant and animal species. The region also contributes to only 3.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions yet is in constant threat of climate-related hazards such as floods, typhoons, droughts, heat or cold waves, and storm surges. Such catastrophes have affected over 57 million people in the Asia Pacific, threatening the lives of the most at-risk populations as well as the rippling effects on housing, food security, and community livelihoods. 

Population pressures and poverty lead to desperate efforts to survive, even at the expense of the environment. It is not possible to blame it on third-world countries. The solution cannot prevent development from those who need it most. Such an unequal impact of climate change where poorer countries contribute little to global emissions but suffer the most is not foreign to countries of the Global South. The intersections of sustainability, geopolitics, and social justice demand serious attention. One ought to reflect on the current systems in place that allow for such exploitation and inequality to take place every day. 

Moreover, ecological politics in the era of the climate crisis is now not limited to ‘saving the planet’ or even ‘staying within the 1.5°C of planetary heating’. The global conversation surrounding climate justice and action plans must now consider: limiting how many people will be displaced, how many will experience insufferable heat, floods, wildfires, and droughts, and how many species and habitats will be lost forever. Every decision made today by the governments and policymakers on the international stage already holds an impact on the citizens and working people of the region and the world today—we are in critical need of environmental justice and sustainability now. 

The presence of the US military bases in the Asia Pacific and the ASEAN regions in countries such as the Philippines and Thailand are extremely disastrous to the native biodiversity and ecological habitats. The extraction of oil and natural resources, the massive energy usage to maintain all bases running, the harming of indigenous communities, and the production of hazardous wastes causing severe health problems and long-term disabilities are critical in the discussion of environmental justice across the ASEAN region and beyond.
The global environmental movement must be aware of the interconnectedness of world issues, and it needs to be led by the mass communities around the world, who are already facing the worst consequences of the climate crisis. Fostering an ethical and resilient culture for sustainability and biodiversity is critical at all levels of individuals as well as communities and governments.