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  • Writer's pictureLinda Mans

What do 'we' want? Health and well-being of people and planet

What do we want? Climate justice! When do we want it? Now! What do we want? Appreciation of the farmers! When do we want it? Now! What do we want? Build new houses! When do we want it? Now! Who is 'we'?

Climate justice

On Friday 27 September 2019 'we' were several different groups, including Friends of the Earth Netherlands, Fridays for Future and Extinction Rebellion that jointly with at least 25,000 citizens called for 'climate justice' at the Malieveld in The Hague in the Netherlands. 'We' demanded that the Dutch government commit itself to an ambitious and socially just climate policy.

Farmers' fear

One week later 'we' were farmers that felt they are being forced to bear most of the pain of climate actions and called for justice and appreciation of their work. In May 2019, the highest administrative court in the Netherlands ruled that government laws for granting construction permits and farming activities that emit large amounts of nitrogen are in breach of EU legislation. Farmers also fear to loose their competitive position to neighbouring countries such as Belgium and Germany if restrictions are too tight.

Construction builders' barriers

And then 'we' protested against the government's nitrogen policy and PFAS standard. Currently no new projects can be approved if nitrogen emissions aren't reduced elsewhere to compensate for the emissions of the new project. This brought hundreds of construction projects to a standstill and municipalities are still hesitant to issue new permits. Other licensed projects are on hold, because the ground on which the work takes place may contain PFAS - a collection of around 6 thousand chemical substances that are difficult to degrade, are poisonous to rats and fish and can bind to proteins in the human body and build up in the blood.

'We' has limits

'We' want different things. In their recently published book 'Theorie van de Kraal' (Theory of the Corral) the authors Willem Schinkel en Rogier van Reekum criticise the word 'we'. They explain that 'we' has limits, that pretends to be complete, a nation, a society, but excludes others to define more exactly who 'we' are. Generally speaking, however, 'we' want to feel that our lives are going well. Good living conditions, such as feeling secure in our incomes and in our housing, and feeling appreciated and included, are fundamental for well-being.

I believe that well-being of people should include and go hand in hand with well-being of planet Earth. But, 'the link made by individuals between health issues and climate change [threatening the health of planet earth] is weak', concludes the 2019 report of the Lancet Countdown on health and climate change.

'Not slashing emissions? See you in court'

The link, however, is clear and it was Marjan Minnesma with Urgenda on 20 December 2019 who accomplished with the first lawsuit based on exactly this link to force a government, the Dutch government, to act on and reduce global heating. The Court of Appeal of The Hague concluded (i) that there is a real threat of dangerous climate change and (ii) that there is a serious risk that the current generation of Dutch residents will be confronted with a loss of life as referred to in art. 2 ECHR or disruption of family life as referred to in art. 8 ECHR.

Let's put the duty of care of the State into practice with an inclusive approach to 'we'. This should be based on a 'New Global Economic Order' that would be 'regenerative and circular in nature as to remain within the ecological ceilings that planet earth provides while providing a dignified living for all.’

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