Global street paper movement appeals for climate justice

Ahead of the UN climate summit COP26 in Glasgow, the global street paper movement calls on leaders to take urgent, coordinated and necessary climate action to protect the world’s most vulnerable communities.

Around the world, the climate crisis is being felt now by people living in poverty and experiencing homelessness, and it threatens to push more people into precarious situations if urgent action is not taken.

In parts of Europe, flash flooding this summer destroyed homes and livelihoods, robbing many people in poverty of their hard-won gains. Street paper The Big Issue, for example, recounted the story of Monica in London who was stuck living in a water-damaged flat after it was flooded.

Big Issue seller Monica and a photo of her flooded flat
Big Issue seller Monica and her flooded flat. Credit: the Big Issue

In the US this summer, extreme temperatures made life on the street even more unbearable. Street Roots (Portland, Oregon) reported at the time, “there’s no escape hatch when you live on the streets – no air filters, no doors sealed off from the ashen air, no indoor heating for the freezes, no central air to mitigate the heat.”

A tent pitched on the pavement of Portland, Oregon, USA this summer under high temperatures. Credit: Kaia Sand
A tent pitched on the pavement of Portland, Oregon, USA under high temperatures. Credit: Kaia Sand, Street Roots

In parts of South America, climate change has led to extreme weather which people experiencing homelessness are more likely to be more exposed to and affected by. Street paper Hecho en Bs. As. (Buenos Aires, Argentina) has highlighted the growing issues around access to clean drinking water in South America. Meanwhile in Brazil, it has been recently reported that a lack of water has led to rising energy prices, putting more households at risk of poverty and homelessness.

“The rule of thumb with the climate crisis is that if you have very little to do with it, you’ll experience its maximum impact,” author, activist and academic Raj Patel summarised in a recent article with Seattle street paper Real Change.

Until justice is achieved and credible action is taken, street papers will continue to provide supportive paths out of poverty for anyone who needs them and a platform for underrepresented voices. We will continue to amplify the experiences of people at the sharp end of any crisis. We will continue to tell the stories of the people and organisations pioneering the changes we need to build a more just, equitable and sustainable world.

Commenting after wildfires destroyed his hometown of Lytton in Canada, seller of Megaphone said: “I also pray that this year will wake the government and big companies up about climate change. As our planet gets hotter and hotter, our water supply will diminish, and without water, nothing lives. They spend billions to look for life on other planets which could be used to save this one. Soon our planet will look like Mars because of lack of water.”

Peter Thompson by Megaphone, Canada
Megaphone seller, Peter Thompson. Credit: Megaphone

Maree Aldam, Chief Executive of the International Network of Street Papers, said: “The street paper model is an example of a locally-based, innovative solution to the unfortunately global issue of poverty. The model’s spread and impact has been supported by our network working in cooperation, sharing resources, information and knowledge.

“At this critical moment, we urge global leaders to work together, to share solutions and think innovatively to combat the climate crisis, not least to prevent further deepening of inequalities and further harm to vulnerable communities around the world.”

The UK’s Big Issue, one of the world’s largest street papers, is based in Glasgow just a few miles from where delegates will gather for the UN summit. True to the street paper ethos, it will provide an alternative and authentic view of the city, the conference and climate justice a through a COP26 special edition.

Whether you are in Glasgow for the summit or following the proceedings from afar, make sure to find your local street paper to help fight poverty and support justice-driven journalism.

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