“Sustainability,” from the series Lexicon for an Anthropocene Yet Unseen, uncovers the issue of how the United Nations, and more specifically the United States, is handling the ideas of sustainable living during the Anthropocene in order to mitigate climate change as well as general harm we have done to the environment.
While climate change mitigation specifically is a relatively recent issue for a major western organization like the United Nations to handle, the methods of which they are managing the issue is one which is as old as western civilization itself. These methods come from an imperialist and particularly western mindset, which is to say that the nations and individuals at the helm of an organization like the United Nations eschew as much responsibility as possible for their actions by using other countries (particularly ones in which the majority of citizens are not white) as some sort of scapegoat for environmental disaster, as we’ve seen in all of the previous readings from this class.
The major powers within the United Nations have taken it upon themselves to spread a gospel of sustainability to nations in Latin America, much in the same way that major western groups and powers have dubiously spread democracy or Christianity throughout history. These Latin American countries don’t play even close to as big a role in the escalation of carbon emissions as a country like the United States does, but their citizens are being told to practice a sustainable lifestyle on our behalf. This is strange and bad for heaps of reasons. The United States has no intent on imposing these same ideals onto its own citizens, and it’s likely that they never will. I don’t even know what the United States is trying to get out of this, besides maybe just the joy of exerting power and force over people who don’t matter, in their eyes. Most of the people involved in high politics within the US and the UN hardly care or believe in climate change to begin with, so what’s their motive, if not doing it “just because”? Maybe the answer is right in front of me and I can’t see it. But I can’t say I’m surprised that any of this is happening.