Did you make any New Year resolutions for 2024? During the first month of the year, for many of us, motivation to stick to our resolutions, build new habits, and chase our dreams is still high. We do so with the intention of living better, becoming our best self and meeting our expectations of where we see ourselves in the future. But do we all do so with our friends, family and global community in mind? After all, we are social beings and need relationships in our lives. Living well (whatever that means precisely) as an individual is nowadays also dependent on how we fare globally in issues that concern us all, such as climate change. Unsurprisingly, many of the global issues that were prevalent in 2023 will not take the backseat in 2024. Every year, as a global community, we take some of our baggage with us into the next: some things get easier to carry and some get even heavier. Most decisions we make as individuals have an impact on the wellbeing of others. Whether it involves cutting out meat or calling grandma more often, working on our physical and mental health so we can be more attentive to others, focusing on academic excellence and knowledge production, or speaking out about injustice, our resolutions generally focus on becoming better human beings, for us and for others. Being better humans for a better world, and keeping up with our resolutions, can be difficult though.
How can we stir 2024 in a direction that enhances our own and our fellow humans’ wellbeing? Let’s look back at January’s last week and reflect on some important events and habits that we as a global community have carried into 2024. Let’s see it as motivation to continue our quest for a better 2024.
First, let’s talk about the war between Israel and Hamas. Last Sunday, Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu rejected an offer by Hamas to release Israeli hostages in exchange for Israel’s withdrawal, Palestinian hostages and the acceptance of Hamas’ governance in Gaza. Netanyahu argued that, should he agree to Hamas’ conditions, Israeli soldiers would have “fallen in vain”. In response, family members of the Israeli hostages stormed a parliamentary meeting in Jerusalem, demanding that the government should invest more effort into bringing the captives home. On top of that, Netanyahu has also opposed a sovereign Palestinian state. He announced wanting full Israeli security control over Gaza, which is quite the contrary to a two-state solution. His rejection on Sunday therefore does not come as a surprise but is heartbreaking against the backdrop of the hostages and their families and the skyrocketing number of people killed, currently amounting to 26,257, in Gaza alone. On a slightly more hopeful note, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled on Friday, that Israel is to take all measures to prevent a genocide in the Gaza Strip. The ICJ’s verdict admits a plausible risk of genocide in Gaza and makes Israel’s government and allies, the US as Israel’s biggest weapon provider at the forefront, responsible for preventing the genocide from unfolding. The case submitted to the ICJ by South Africa marks a win for Global South solidarity and continuous global protests against a war that is predominantly claiming Palestinian civilian’s lives. It shows that now is the time to speak up about atrocities all over the world. More than ever, this is a call to stay informed and participate in the global discourse on justice. Holding governments accountable and demanding action, especially when we have the options to do so, is the least we can do. While I do not think that everyone has to speak up on every global conflict currently unfolding, I do believe in the power of collective action. Injustice arises from deep-rooted systemic issues, which together we need to uproot for humanity’s sake. On that note, let’s not forget about the wars and conflicts in Ukraine, Sudan, Lebanon, Yemen, Myanmar, Iran, Haiti and many more countries and let’s not be numbed but relentlessly extend empathy to those suffering around the world.
Let’s also take the time to listen to those upon whom injustice is inflicted. On Friday 26th, Australia celebrated its national day. This date invokes for many the bitter taste of European arrival in 1788 and the consequent violent colonisation of the continent. Tens of thousands of Australians marched in protest against Australia Day sharing a date with ‘Invasion Day’. The protests have been happening for years, but the Australian government has remained deaf to Indigenous people and their allies’ demands of making the 26th of January a day of mourning and assigning a different day as national day. The demands are rooted in the European settlers’ genocide against First Nation people and the ongoing mistreatment of Indigenous people, which is further aggravated by the public’s opposition to recognise First Peoples and give them a voice in Parliament and Executive Government of the Commonwealth. In view of Australia’s consistent failure to assume responsibility for its past and ensure the wellbeing of all its citizens, showing solidarity with those whose voice is silenced and engaging in civil discourse is more important than ever.
The above situation unfolds in a country currently troubled by increasingly unpredictable weather conditions ranging from floods to droughts, all being direct consequences of climate change. To fight climate change, indigenous knowledge is important because they have successfully managed the lands for hundreds of years. To move forward, Australia and other countries should hence appreciate their indigenous populations instead of denying them their rights. Listening to indigenous voices and respecting their demands for equity instead of just taking advantage of their knowledge is an important step towards achieving environmental justice. Effective climate action must include a social justice approach because climate change is a human rights issue.
To end on a good note, Kenyan farmers are successfully implementing regenerative farming to fight climate change, and the Sakhrah Women’s Society Cooperative is helping female farmers in transitioning to clean and renewable energy in Jordan. As we can see, some climate action initiatives are already showing results, others need more cooperation and support from everybody around the globe to come to full fruition. Climate change affects us all and while it may seem insignificant, commitment to less consumption and more conscious choices by those who can afford it, implies a shift in mindset towards wanting to be better humans. Climate change and its impacts may well still be the most salient issue of our time, but if we stick to resolutions of reducing our environmental footprint and continue fighting for climate justice, the future may not be as bleak as some imagine.