'Same storm, different boat’ – tackling the unequal impacts of environmental pollution and climate change

Dr Daphina Misiedjan on Dutch television programme Brainwash
Anna van Kooij

We cannot ignore how people of colour, people with low incomes and people with practical education are more exposed and less protected, argues Dr Daphina Misiedjan.

During her presentation on the Dutch television programme Brainwash on 22 August, Dr Daphina Misiedjan describes how social inequality amplifies the unequal impact of environmental pollution and climate change.

She explains how the place where you were born is determinant for your opportunities in life, including your chances of living a healthy life. Environmental pollution and climate change affects people differently. We might all be in the same storm, but the boats we sit in while we weather the storm differ.

Anna van Kooij

These inequalities exist on multiple levels: globally, within countries and even within cities. Globally we see inequality within the green energy transition.

While countries in the global North reduce CO2 emissions by transitioning to renewable energy through solar panels and wind turbines, countries in the global South that supply critical resources for these products suffer from pollution and overexploitation. An example is the Democratic Republic of Congo that supplies cobalt needed for rechargeable batteries.

Meanwhile, within the Kingdom of the Netherlands we see that the European part of the Kingdom is the biggest polluter, but that the Caribbean part is hit harder and faster by climate change due to its geographic position and limited capacity to mitigate the effects of climate change.

And even within cities we see inequalities. Families with higher education and incomes are often better able to protect themselves against the negative impacts of environmental pollution, for example by purchasing air filters for their homes.

These differences cannot be ignored. Yet little is done to track which groups are hit harder. If this information is available, it’s not accessible to the people concerned. We can help by paying closer attention to these issues and doing our own research. We can also contribute to civic initiatives and university projects that seek and bundle such information for further research. We can also help through solidarity, and fortunately solidarity is a resource that we can use infinitely.  

Read the full article and watch the episode (in Dutch) on Brainwash
Assistant professor

Dr Daphina Misiedjan

More information

This series of Brianwash Talks, recorded on 30 May 2021 in de Brakke Grond, is a collaboration between HUMAN, Brainwash Festival and the Flemish-Dutch house for culture and debate DeBuren.

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