The Environmental Justice Foundation, Glasgow Science Centre and Scottish Communities Climate Action Network (SCCAN) bring you Climate Reflections, a multimedia virtual exhibition of climate stories of loss, community and the profound necessity of system change.
These very different climate crisis experiences, voices and stories are part of the same global narrative. They are stories of communities navigating the impacts of the climate crisis.
Through the first, second and third window, we see that climate change is happening now. It is destroying livelihoods, infrastructure and communities, forcing people from their homes, towns and even countries around the world.
The planet’s poorest and most vulnerable are suffering the worst effects, despite having contributed the least to its cause. However, even developed countries have not and will not escape its devastating impacts.
Global heating is both an environmental and a human rights issue. It is the primary threat to the natural environment, world peace, development and human rights in the 21st century.
The Environmental Justice Foundation is dedicated to building international awareness of climate refugees and to securing their protection. We believe in climate justice in our warming world. Our vision is for zero emissions and fair treatment and support for those affected by climate change.
Through the fourth window, we hear the thoughts, concerns and plans of some of the communities in Scotland who are not as immediately affected but who are taking local action to build community resilience and start the changes necessary to adapt to and mitigate this crisis for the safety of all communities.
Window 1: Bangladesh
Window 2: Sami Community, Sweden
Window 3: Syria
Window 4: Scotland
SCCAN commits to inspire and promote, connect and support climate-led action in Scotland to address the Climate Emergency. Our mission is to help develop a national vision of a resilient, zero-carbon Scotland, tackle the barriers faced by communities in working towards that vision and to ensure the community voice is heard, and has influence.
The COVID-19 pandemic exposed the growing inequalities in our world, but it also highlighted the power of local, community action and mutual aid. It showed that local knowledge can enable a rapid local response to put in place local solutions to meeting local needs.
Urgent action is needed for people and planet and we cannot take effective action without listening and speaking to each other. We hope that these reflections and the juxtapositions of the stories of these communities around the world can remind our audience of the importance of fostering connections between global north and south.
Across the planet, lives are changing as climate collapse alters the world around us and people are forced to adapt or relocate to survive. Natural patterns that they have depended on for generations are shifting at alarming and unpredictable rates and for many, ancestral knowledge no longer holds true. As a result, one person every 1.3 seconds is forced to leave their home and their community due to climate-related impacts.
Whether it’s from slow onset effects like rising sea levels, or extreme weather events like storms and floods, the climate crisis will affect us all. And those who are affected first and worst have contributed the least to the dire situation we find ourselves in. Beyond Borders profiles the people behind the statistics to show the human face of climate breakdown.
Window 1: Bangladesh
Abdul Zuffer’s Story
“The rice season is not at the right time, none of the rains are. And when it does rain, it is far heavier. Everyone is affected”. Abdul survived cyclone Aila in 2009, a tropical storm that killed over 300 people and left a million homeless, including Abdul.
“The future will bring more devastating storms” he warns. “We want to stay here, but it will be difficult. The whole world is responsible. People are using machines everywhere and the world is warming.”
-Abdul Zuffer, farmer in Southern Bangladesh
Abdul Ohab’s Story
“As time went on we knew this was no way to live. We were becoming ill; our children couldn’t go to school. We didn’t want to leave, our hearts belonged to that place, we still had land in our name even though it was now under water. We had no choice but to move.”
Afaz Uddin was collecting honey in the jungle when cyclone Aila hit Bangladesh. He came back to find his village almost entirely underwater.
“We do not want to move from my birthplace for this.”
By 2050, one in every seven people in Bangladesh will be displaced by climate change, recent estimates suggest, and up to 18 million people may have to move because of sea level rise alone.
Gopal Munda is from Kara Mura in the south of Bangladesh. “Once this village was green with paddy fields. But now the water is salty and the trees have died. We can only farm shrimp. I am devastated when I think that I will have to move. This land was made by my father and grandfather. We are people, poor people living here in the countryside. If other nations reduce their use of machines, maybe we will be able to survive.” Bangladesh may lose around 11% of its land by 2050 to sea level rise, affecting an estimated 15 million people. This not only forces people from their homes through flooding, it contaminates drinking water, causes health problems, and damages crops.
Shoripa Bibi from Kalikabari village is now living in a slum in Mirpur in Dhaka, Bangladesh. “We had a house. We had cows, goats, chickens and ducks. […] We had crops, not much, but enough to live on. I’ve lost my land. The river took everything from me. I have nowhere to go. […] I want to say that, if they [richer countries causing global warming] want to keep their country nice, they should also help us to keep our country nice. But they keep their country beautiful and make our environment disastrous.” Approximately 10,000 hectares of land is lost in Bangladesh every year to riverbank erosion, which is the primary cause of climate displacement inland. Up to 50% of people now living in Bangladesh’s urban slums may be there because they were forced to flee their rural homes as a result of riverbank erosion.
Residents of Korail‘s Story
Residents of Korail slum outside Dhaka, Bangladesh cross the waters between their homes and the city. Dhaka is one of the most densely populated cities in the world – it grew by well over half a million people last year. A large proportion of the continuing influx are climate refugees, who pack into the city’s already severely overcrowded slums.
Bay of Bengal
A fisherman in the Sundarbans, the vast mangrove forest that protects low-lying southern Bangladesh for the worst of the regions’ cyclones. Bangladesh is suffering from increasing frequency and severity of tropical storms under climate change. In 2016 for instance there were four cyclones – Roanu, Kyant, Nada and Vardah – in the Bay of Bengal, whereas usually there is only one. With two-thirds of the country is less than five metres above sea level, Bangladesh is exceptionally vulnerable to climate change. A high population density, inadequate infrastructure and farming economy all add to the risk.
Window 2: The Sami Community, Northern Sweden
Kenneth Pittja is a reindeer herder and Sami community leader in northern Sweden. “People around the world in the big cities will not understand before it gets close to you down there. We see it up here now. There is something happening. We are destroying this planet with this way of living.”
Lars-Ánte Kuhmunen is a reindeer herder and Sami community leader in northern Sweden. He has lost much of his herd this year, as unpredictable weather has made grazing conditions very challenging for the reindeer. He pulled a frozen reindeer calf from the snow, telling us: “This one was starving to death. That’s the climate change.” Unusual levels of rainfall can create a thick layer of ice on top of the snow, meaning reindeer cannot dig through it. Unable to reach the lichen below, they starve.
Maxida Märak is a Sami rights activist and musician from northern Sweden. “I think indigenous peoples are always the first to know about climate change and to notice it, because we are so close to the nature.” Climate change is having a disproportionate effect on the Sami. During the last decade, temperatures in the Arctic have risen almost twice as much as the global average. As temperatures become more erratic, it is harder for reindeer herders to plan winter grazing, and to adapt to the changing climate conditions.
“I can’t understand why we are forgetting nature, why we are abusing the world. We think it’s so big, but it’s not. We are all connected some way, somehow. We will all have to live with the consequences. I look at my children and I wonder if they will be able to continue this way of life.” – Kenneth
“In the beginning there was a kind of tranquility to the landscape.. now you can feel that the wildlife is struggling. Back then, when I was in the forest there were so many birds flying everywhere. But today, there are far fewer to be seen in the air. Even the birds are in decline.” – Lars
“If you think of me, where I am living my life and how, the way my forefathers have lived their lives, this is all I know. If I can’t live like this, then how should I live? If I have to change my way of life then the whole Sami culture will change… and all will be lost.” – Aslat
Window 3: Syria
Syrian refugees in Za’atari refugee camp, Jordan. Globally, Syria is among the countries most vulnerable to water scarcity and most economically affected by drought. In the years leading up to the war, around 60% of the country suffered severe and prolonged droughts, resulting in the heaviest crop failure for many years.
A young Syrian girl in Za’atari refugee camp, Jordan, one of the largest in the world. In Syria, some 1.3-1.5 million people were on the move from drought-stricken regions before a single gunshot was fired. While climate change is not the only cause of conflict in Syria, it is increasingly viewed as a ‘threat multiplier’.
Window 4: Communities in Scotland
1 – 1000 Better Stories (Paul Bristow)
“Something I’ve heard quite a few times since becoming SCCAN’s Story Weaver, is that people and projects can sometimes feel a little as if they are just plugging away, doing their best, hoping it makes a difference. And of course, it is making a difference – and viewed as part of a collective effort, there’s been so much distance travelled. Certainly, there is much more to be done, urgently – but we also need more people to understand that change is possible, to inspire new volunteers and projects. That’s the starting point for our new podcast series, 1000 Better Stories.
Sustaining Dunbar is a ‘Community Development Trust’, which means we support and nurture local projects that serve the community of Dunbar, East Linton and the surrounding area. This community is already so resilient and cooperative, and we want to support it to be ready for anything.
Sustaining Dunbar is headed up by a small team of volunteers, who live in and love this community, and is run with support from staff employed on a project to project basis. We draw on the huge range of expertise of our members, partner organisations and staff to turn ideas in their formative stages into projects that can fly. We can help with community development, project management, planning and funding and more.
3 – Glasgow Repair Café (Lauren Crilly)
Repair Cafe Glasgow is a voluntary organisation, founded in 2017 on the principles of Repair Café International, and built upon the idea that our possessions have lots of life left in them when we maintain and repair them. Doing this together with others builds social cohesion and combats isolation, while helping reduce the size of our landfills.
It’s no secret that as a society we throw away vast amounts of stuff unnecessarily. The majority of our waste still goes into landfill and recycling options are often limited. Many products are intentionally designed with built-in obsolescence so that their useful life is shortened and we’re forced to buy new. The knowledge and ability to repair and ‘make do and mend’ have been lost over the years and valuable practical skills are not being passed down the generations.
You can find more up to date news on Glasgow Repair Café and get in touch through their Facebook page
4 – Remode Collective (Chiara Puppi)
Remode Collective is a Community Interest Company (CIC) set up to explore ways to re-purpose textiles locally and build new skills, while celebrating multicultural diversity.
We are based in Edinburgh and we offer a range of creative workshops, classes, community projects end events, as well as collect leftover and unwanted textiles to produce handmade and unique items.
Our aim is to establish a multicultural community of crafters, designers, seamstress and tailors that come together to learn from each other, while promoting a sustainable and ethical use of skills and resources.
Transition University of St Andrews is a diverse network of people with a common vision of a university and town that exemplify the values and practices of sustainability through excellence in scholarship, operation and community action. We run a number of projects across St Andrews. Our Climate Reflections story is an interview with one of our project coordinators, from an audio walking tour of St Andrews for the Uni Freshers’ Week.
After experiencing Climate Reflections today, we would like to invite you to complete a short survey about your own reflections. Your answers don’t need to be in English. Please feel free to use whatever language, dialect or slang you want.
The answers are anonymous and if you agree to answer, you consent that your answers might be used as content for future exhibitions organized by the Glasgow Science Centre, Environmental Justice Foundation and SCCAN with the theme of Climate Languages).
Nowhere to Call Home credits
Photography and film: Environmental Justice Foundation
Writer: Ursula Rani Sarma
Producer: Fran Miller
Head of Talks and Exhibitions: Judith Merritt
Sound design: Joel Price
Audio recorded by:
You Can’t Take Anything With You by Dag Soerlie
Black Snow read by Johan Hallstrom
This Glimpse of Hope Inside of You read by Sindri Swan
The River Took It All read by Mita Rahman
To Save Ourselves read by Rahima Delvero
Lands of River read by Shama Rahman
Motherland read by Amirul Hussain
Six Seasons read by Amirul Hussain