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The Important Links Between Environmentalism and Humanitarianism

If you were to ask someone to name the most pressing social issue facing the world today, chances are you would get several different answers. Between war, famine, drought, natural disasters, forced displacement of people, poverty, and any other number of social problems, our world is far from stable, and several issues are in desperate need of humanitarian assistance.

What many of these issues have in common is they are often caused or exacerbated  by climate change and environmental destruction. Wars have been started to gain or maintain control of territories with vast oil reserves; famines and droughts have been caused by climate change and mismanagement of land and resources; and natural disasters induced by irregular weather patterns wreak havoc on the lives and homes of hundreds of millions of people every year. 

Fighting for a safer environment is by no means a way of completely solving these complex issues - which will require a robust, interdisciplinary approach - but it’s imperative to the process. As stated by Erik Solheim, former Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme, “The environment can be both the silent victim and the driver of conflict and disaster. It is the foundation on which peace, stability and well-being are all developed. To care for the environment is to care for humanity.” (learn more about how environmental action is at the heart of humanitarian response here).  

While we may not see the immediate results of making changes to the way we protect the environment and its future, taking action is still a crucial step in ensuring the long-term survival of humankind on the planet. Although it would be difficult for an individual to bring about the kind of large-scale action that the Earth needs, changes to our society’s collective behavior could lead us in the right direction by creating greater awareness of and sensitivity to environmental issues. Whether this means finding ways to decrease our consumption of oil and natural gas, sourcing our food and clothing ethically, or supporting environmentally-conscious policy change, taking action is the only way to protect both human rights and our planet’s health.


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