From academics to environmental organizations, labor specialists to journalists, the "Our Work/Environment Dialogues" events embrace this crucial intersection by igniting meaningful discussions on topics related to climate and labor. By highlighting the climate risks faced by diverse business sectors and the implications for workers’ rights in different countries, these dialogues, supported by the Pulitzer Center, shed light on the urgent need to address the impact of climate change on labor practices and work conditions around the world.
During January of 2024, these dialogues brought attention to global audiences regarding the consequences of climate change across various industries and workers. By focusing on labor practices and work conditions, the dialogues underscored the importance of understanding and mitigating the impacts of climate change on workers worldwide.
These dialogues enhance information and awareness surrounding critical themes such as inequality, health, and livelihoods affected by climate change and labor issues. By connecting Pulitzer Center-supported stories with regional audiences and providing essential insights, this initiative elevates the quality of discussions on this intersection. Additionally, it fostered the dialogue and collaboration among journalists, academics, activists, and the business sector on these issues aiming to drive long-term impact and promote climate-positive practices that safeguard workers' rights.
The participants range from students, journalists, and academics to activists and young professionals. This diverse participation reflects the initiative's ability to facilitate meaningful dialogues and collaboration among stakeholders from various sectors, fostering an approach to addressing the complex issues at this intersection.
With simultaneous translation into four languages – Bahasa Indonesia, English, French, and Portuguese – the webinar series reached a worldwide audience. Through an online survey, 231 participants informed us about their impressions and learnings regarding the conversations fostered by the Pulitzer Center. 90% of respondents rated their satisfaction with the webinar as good or excellent, with a final rating of 8,3/10. 91% said they had increased their knowledge of the intersection between climate and labor issues, which was one of our goals with the webinar series. After participating in the dialogues, 93% of respondents said they are likely to discuss climate and labor topics with others.
When asked about what they learned from the sessions, the respondents pointed out how workers are seriously affected by climate change and the importance of listening to more diverse voices on the issue, in addition to governments and official authorities. Our audience also commented on the impact of climate change on communities and livelihoods, highlighting how natural resources and the most vulnerable people are at risk in the climate crisis.
The importance of local stories and reflections on the fair energy transition was also raised, through the approach to green jobs and workers' rights. Additionally, climate justice, gender issues, environmental neocolonialism, worker exploitation, and inequalities were addressed by participants in the survey comments. This diversity of subtopics helps us situate the quality of conversations brought to life during the dialogues and highlight how intersecting conversations about climate and labor can be.
“Energy is very, very necessary, [...] but if we focus on energy here, we could be hindering the reduction of other types of emissions, basically overlooking what’s happening with methane, what’s happening in emissions coming from agriculture, from land use and deforestation.” - Sabrina Fernandes
- Flavia Lopes is a researcher and journalist covering the environment and climate change, as well as a Pulitzer Center grantee.
- Bagus Santoso is the head of training and development at the Coalition of Indonesian Labor Unions (Gabungan Serikat Buruh Indonesia/GSBI).
- Sabrina Fernandes is a Brazilian sociologist, political economist, author, and activist.
- Pawanjot Kaur is an independent journalist, media content producer, and filmmaker with eight years of experience in media.
- Grenti Paramitha is the Pulitzer Center’s Southeast Asia Education Program Manager.
There are many socio-economic impacts arising from the unfairness of energy transition. Our webinar delved into the phenomenon of solar parks and abandoned coal mining, combined with data from the Coalition of Indonesian Labor Unions (Gabungan Serikat Buruh Indonesia/GSBI)GSBI, indicating that 1-1.5 million jobs will be lost to achieve zero carbon emissions in 2050, while only 300,000 new jobs will be created in renewable and new energy sectors, as highlighted by Bagus Santoso. Improper mine closure, unfulfilled promises by the Indian government regarding land rental for solar panels, inadequate worker protection, and extreme heat have been exacerbated by the absence of correct demographic data of both formal and informal workers are among the issues highlighted by Flavia Lopes. Additionally, Lopes found unique information in India on how women have benefited significantly from fossil energy (coal), hence the transition needs to take this into account and might potentially create pushbacks.
As highlighted in this session, discussing a true just energy transition involves not only replacing old jobs with new ones but also improving job quality and their connection to other sectors. The role of green jobs in contributing to mitigation of climate change-induced disaster events is crucial so diverse stakeholders and parties work together on the local challenges. Furthermore, Sabrina Fernandes mentioned that discussions on this transition need to extend beyond just the energy sector, although it remains a primary focus, it needs to be included in other transition frameworks such as transportation, mining, agriculture, land use, and deforestation, that tend to be overlooked.
Speakers propose that because the energy transition will have wide-ranging impacts on local communities, these discussions should be included in each country's existing environmental protection forums. Speakers from labor unions also emphasize the importance of multi-stakeholder collaboration, such as between labor unions and journalists, to bring progress on the energy transition to the public sphere.
There are similarities in the process of just energy transitions in different countries, and these factors need to be addressed to ensure that the process is truly centered within the framework of justice. One of the similarities mentioned by the speakers is in the realm of skills gap, and the solution would be to bring attention to the local education system to address the skills matching to the new or renewable energy. Another point would be to equip local communities with other skills that can help them create new economic opportunities, while creating an environment that makes the importance of it clear to them. A second similarity across regions was around gender and race. To overcome this, the panelists suggested that when developing new national policies that relate to labor, the process needs to ensure the proper representative in the policy consultation. For them, caste, gender, and race scrutinize the unjust transition.
“The simulation of the effects of climate change aim to place the populations involved as relevant actors integrating them along with technical knowledge into the sphere of political decision making.” - Miguel Dobrich
- Adetokunbo Abiola is a multiple award-winning journalist based in Nigeria.
- Miguel Dobrich is a journalist, educator, and digital entrepreneur based in Montevideo, Uruguay.
- Leandra Gonçalves is an assistant professor in the Institute of Marine Sciences at the Federal University of São Paulo.
- Meity Mongdong is Popua Conservation Strategy Director, Konservasi Indonesia.
- Afy Malungu is the Pulitzer Center’s Africa Outreach Program Manager.
This webinar delved into the issue of rising ocean levels affecting fishing and livelihoods in coastal communities in regions like Latin America, Africa, and Southeast Asia, and what are the challenges the communities are facing in this context. It discussed fishing practices, maritime life, and the intersection between climate change, work opportunities, and cultural traditions.
Due to higher temperatures, rising sea levels are at the root of many of the challenges faced by coastal communities. In Nigeria, for example, the incursion of the oceans into fresh waters and fields is causing numerous losses in terms of biodiversity, with the disappearance of possessions, affecting the entire local economy from fishing to the fish trade. Fishermen are the first to be affected, as Adetokunbo Abiola has mentioned, and the activities of oil companies along the ocean coasts add a new level of difficulty to their activities.
In addition, rising ocean levels expose coastal regions to the risk of flooding, where infrastructure is vulnerable to the threats of climate change. Through a journalistic investigation using technological tools, by Miguel Dobrich, it was demonstrated that climate change is significantly affecting the environment and by extension the conditions of workers.
In this sense, it is important to address the injustices that climate change brings, especially to the most vulnerable groups. As Leandra Gonçalvez pointed out, women are one of the most affected groups in the world, and their contribution to the fishing sector is very often little considered. So, to achieve truly sustainable fisheries, it is essential to address the invisibility and challenges faced by women and also take into account their contributions to the field.
The session also approached solutions and good practices. One of them was brought by Meity Mongdong, who shared with the public about the “Sasi,” a traditional wisdom in managing resources, utilized in Papuan communities in Indonesia.
Other solutions proposed to mitigate the effects of climate change and their impacts on livelihoods and the ecosystem were through local knowledge, using traditions that fishers and farmers have kept., National solutions were mentioned through the enactment of policies to enable farmers and fishers to cope with declining yields, while International solutions could be implemented by reducing the use of fossil fuels, responsible for global heating. In terms of technologies, another option mentioned was the use of technical knowledge to guide decision-making taking into account climate change impacts on workers' conditions. Lastly, a more inclusive and gender-aware approach to fisheries management was also pointed out.
“The heat that people are experiencing is not normal, it’s not nice. Everyone suffers and complains about it, but few people connects it to the climate crisis” - Jazmin Acuna
- Jazmín Acuña is one of the co-founders of El Surtidor, and winner of the 2018 Gabo Award in Innovation.
- Karl Mancini is an Italian documentary photographer based out of Rome and Buenos Aires.
- Laurie Parsons is a senior lecturer in human geography at Royal Holloway, University of London.
- Ana Claudia Gonçalves coordinates the fisheries management program at the Instituto de Desenvolvimento Sustentável Mamirauá.
- Maria Darrigo is the Pulitzer Center’s Latin America Education Program Manager.
In this webinar, we explored the complex of business practices, global consumption, and community production practices and saw the profound effect of these factors in social and environmental aspects, especially labor conditions and workers' well-being.
Through the work of Laurie Parsons, carbon colonialism - colonial practices with sustainability justification - was very well pictured, making clear that some countries are reducing carbon emissions because their goods are produced in the Global South, where workers face more challenging labor conditions. Due to global warming, workers are more and more at risk, especially those exposed to outdoor labor routines.
The journalistic work presented by Jazmín Acuña showed that the impact of climate change can be measured and its impact is becoming clear to workers. In the urban context, data shows, delivery workers are suffering from the extreme heat and need to quickly adapt and even endure a context that affects the kidneys and other organs. In rural areas, as Karl Mancini pointed out, many different foods that are fundamental to the food security of local populations in the Global South are now being produced as healthy foods for the Global North. This is a type of neocolonialism that affects the locals, reducing their access to natural resources, increasing child labor and environmental problems.
The session highlighted that to address many of these problems we need not only a change from consumers, but also public policies to improve conditions for outdoor workers and food production – especially the ones produced in the Global South and consumed by Western societies. Also, laws (national and international ones) to protect small farmers and workers from increasingly harsh weather conditions. In that sense, strengthening the laborers and improving transparency in supply chains is also fundamental to increase labor rights and reducing environmental damage.
Food production and worker’s conditions can be differently organized, especially if managed by local communities. That was the case brought by Ana Gonçalves at the Instituto Mamirauá, where the fishers combine academic and traditional knowledge to develop new technologies and ways of fisheries. These new procedures can align environmental protection with equal social development, bringing better working conditions and contributing to climate-positive solutions.
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