South Africa: Covid-19 Has Taught Us We Cannot Separate Social From Environmental Justice

analysis

With more than 200 days of lockdown disruptions under our belts, many of us have found that our understanding of the world in which we live has shifted and we don't want to return to (ab)normal, nor should we.

In South Africa, as it is around the world, many questions are being asked about how we go forward from here. This year of lost normality has made starkly clear how beleaguered we are, not just by climate uncertainties and environmental degradation, but by the impossibly widening gap between the privileged few and the many who live on the margins.

In 2015, Pope Francis asserted that "we have to realise that a true ecological approach always becomes a social approach; it must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor".

Farmer Theophilus Mwendwa runs through a swarm of desert locusts to chase them away in the bush near Enziu, Kitui County, about 200km east of Nairobi, Kenya, on 24 January 2020. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Dai Kurokawa)

In this interpretation, there's no artificial separation of environmental and social justice. It's a recognition that these are...

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